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Unmanned Aerial Vehicles for Earth Observation

Image-based modelling (IBM) refers to the techniques of acquiring 3D object information from two or more images. This includes three traditional photogrammetric algorithms (feature extraction and matching, Bundle Block Adjustment and orthophoto generation) and new techniques from the Computer Vision community (such as structure from Motion, Visual Odometry and Semi-Global Matching) to derive 3D point information from an image sequence. These techniques can be used to process both terrestrial and airborne images.

Among the innovative platforms for data capture, Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV, better known as drones) are becoming a valid alternative to traditional Geomatics acquisition systems, as they close the gap between higher resolution terrestrial images and the lower resolution airborne and satellite data. UAV can be remotely controlled helicopters, fixed wind airplanes or kites. Different sensors can be installed on- board to acquire data. Many applications ranging from 3D building modelling to crop and forest monitoring can profit from these data acquisition platforms..


Are you a mid-career professional and national of -and living and working in one of the countries listed here? You might consider applying for a scholarship from the Orange Knowledge Programme (former NFP).

Deadline intake 2019 passed
The application deadline has now passed for intake 2019. We will publish the new call for intake 2020 here. Please have a regular look at our website or follow us on Facebook or LinkedIn for further announcements!

In this course the advanced IBM techniques and, in general, the 3D geo-information processing will be explained, with focus on the use of data acquired by UAVs. The course is composed by two main parts. In the first part, the four main steps of the modern IBM process (image orientation, point cloud generation, orthophoto generation and quality assessment) to retrieve 3D information from images will be defined. The peculiarities of IBM process using UAV images will be discussed in detail, showing the differences with the traditional acquisition of airborne images. During the second part the participants will gain hands-on experience on the use of UAVs. In this period, the students will learn how to process images acquired with different sensors and for different applications.

Specifically, participants will learn the principle of IBM methods and they will design three simple solutions (feature extraction, feature matching and relative orientation) by adopting these methods in simple Matlab codes. Lectures will be always coupled with demonstrations and practical sessions on the theory delivered.

The second part of the course will allow the participants to experience the UAV data acquisition and processing workflow. They will understand how a UAV related project is planned and executed with their involvement to a real UAV acquisition project. Then, they will apply the learned IBM techniques using a commercial software (Pix4D – to process the acquired data and extract 3D information. They will finally analyse and compare the data using the available ground truth and dedicated tools and software (Matlab scripts and CloudCompare) to evaluate their results. Multi-spectral and thermal image acquisitions from UAVs will be also part of the course topics. Participants will learn how to process these images and how to better use them for different applications. Additional presentations will be finally provided to describe the use of UAVs in five different domains: urban monitoring, disaster mapping, cultural heritage, land administration and crop monitoring.

Participants do not need prior knowledge on the topics of the course.  


Topics of the course are:

  • The IBM algorithms: feature extraction and matching, Structure from Motion, Visual Odometry, Bundle Block Adjustment, dense image matching techniques and orthophoto generation. These algorithms will be described considering the specific problems related to the use of UAVs;
  • Use of existing simple libraries as well as commercial software to manage IBM techniques; Analysis and evaluation of results generated by IBM techniques using simple tools and the available ground truth;
  • UAV image acquisition and processing for different geo-information purposes, using different camera sensors and for different applications;
  • The use of UAVs in different domains: urban monitoring, disaster mapping, land administration, urban monitoring, crop monitoring.

Teaching and learning approach

The course will be composed by lectures (with the use of flipped classrooms when necessary), practicals, supervised and unsupervised assignments and fieldwork for UAV image acquisitions. The student will learn how to correctly process the acquired images receiving both the theoretical and practical knowledge and gaining in self-confidence and independence during the course.

About your diploma 

Upon successful completion of this course, you will receive a Certificate which will include the name of the course. 

Along with your Certificate you will receive a Course Record providing the name, and if applicable, all the subjects studied as part of the course. It states: the course code, subject, EC credits, exam date, location and the mark awarded.

This certificate course is part of the accredited Master’s  Geo-information Science and earth Observation at ITC. If you decide to take the full Master’s Geo-information Science and Earth Observation at ITC, the Examination Board will give you in principle exemption from the course you followed successfully as a certificate course.

Admission requirements

Academic level and background

Applicants for the Certificate programme should have a Bachelor degree or equivalent from a recognized university in a discipline related to the course, preferably combined with working experience in a relevant field.

Some courses in the Certificate programme or separate modules require knowledge of, and skills in, working with GIS and/or digital image processing of remotely sensed data.

Skills in taught or related subjects are a prerequisite for some courses in the Certificate programme or separate modules. Even if the applicant satisfies the overall admission requirements, acceptance is not automatic.


The faculty accepts transcripts, degrees and diplomas in the following languages: Dutch, English, German, French and Spanish. It is at the discretion of the faculty to require additional English translations of all documents in other languages as well.

English language

As all courses are given in English, proficiency in the English language is a prerequisite.

If you are a national of one of the countries in this list (PDF), you are exempted from an English language test.

Please note: the requirements when applying for fellowships may vary according to the regulations of the fellowship provider.

English language tests: minimum requirements

Only internationally recognised test results are accepted.

TOEFL Paper-based Test (PBT)


TOEFL Internet-based Test


British Council / IELTS



C2 Proficiency / C1 Advanced

Computer skills

Applicants lacking computer experience are strongly advised to follow basic courses in their home countries.

Key information

5 weeks
Full-time (no part-time programs possible)
100% English taught
Enschede, Netherlands
Tuition fees
2019 / 2020
full-time, institutional
€ 1.116