UAVs as remote sensing platform in glaciology: Present applications and future prospects

Anshuman Bhardwaj*, Lydia Sam, Akanksha Akanksha, F. Javier Martin-Torres, Rejesh Kumar

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

280 Citations (Scopus)


Satellite remote sensing is an effective way to monitor vast extents of global glaciers and snowfields. However, satellite remote sensing is limited by spatial and temporal resolutions and the high costs involved in data acquisition. Unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV)-based glaciological studies are gaining pace in recent years due to their advantages over conventional remote sensing platforms. UAVs are easy to deploy, with the option of alternating the sensors working in visible, infrared, and microwave wavelengths. The high spatial resolution remote sensing data obtained from these UAV-borne sensors are a significant improvement over the data obtained by traditional remote sensing. The cost involved in data acquisition is minimal and researchers can acquire imagery according to their schedule and convenience. We discuss significant glaciological studies involving UAV as remote sensing platforms. This is the first review work, exclusively dedicated to highlight UAV as a remote sensing platform in glaciology. We examine polar and alpine applications of UAV and their future prospects in separate sections and present an extensive reference list for the readers, so that they can delve into their topic of interest. Because the technology is still widely unexplored for snow and glaciers, we put a special emphasis on discussing the future prospects of utilising UAVs for glaciological research.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)196-204
Number of pages9
JournalRemote Sensing of Environment
Early online date14 Jan 2016
Publication statusPublished - 15 Mar 2016

Bibliographical note

We are thankful to the editor Dr. Dorothy K. Hall and the three anonymous reviewers for their constructive suggestions, which improved the quality of the paper significantly.


  • Glacier
  • Glaciology
  • Ice sheets
  • Snow
  • Remote sensing
  • UAV


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