EuroSDR Commission 1 – Newcastle University RPAS Benchmark
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A desirable development in any form of airborne surveying is the freeing of processing pipelines from the need for supporting terrestrial information in terms of ground control points (GCPs) and/or local GNSS base stations. Opinions vary as to what extent this is feasible for high quality geometric survey, but it is clear that its ultimate achievement would bring significant time and cost benefits to National Mapping and Cadastral Agencies (NMCAs). This EuroSDR benchmark initiative aims to evaluate the true geometric quality of real-world survey data generated from Remotely Piloted Aircraft System (RPAS) photogrammetry and lidar under different control configurations, focussing primarily on the geometric quality of data generated in the absence of ground control and local GNSS base station information.


Guided by a task force of NMCA experts and academics, in August 2021 Newcastle Geospatial Engineering team have established and surveyed a coordinated test field of independent checkpoints (CPs), test surfaces and profiles at the disused Wards Hill Quarry near Morpeth, Northumberland, UK. The 350 x 250 m study area was simultaneously surveyed using the following RPAS mounted instruments, each limited to a single flight to represent “real-world” operation:

  • DJI Phantom 4 RTK - link
  • DJI ZENMUSE P1 - link
  • DJI ZENMUSE L1 - link
  • Routescene LidarPod - link
  • Riegl MiniVUX - link
site map with bounding box

Figure 1: Ordnance Survey map with the ABCD bounding box of area and previously generated DSM.

panoramic view of Ward’s Hill Quarry

Figure 2: Panoramic view of Ward’s Hill Quarry.

Raw data from the survey is available for researchers to download and participate in the benchmark study. Data will be progressively released, in three phases, over the course of a six-month period.

At the end of each phase we request that participants submit coordinates for the CPs and other sample processed geospatial products from the processing pipeline (e.g. point clouds, DEMs, etc.). Researchers at Newcastle University will evaluate and collate all submitted results, thereby providing independent assessment against ground truth. Results will feed into a 2022 EuroSDR workshop, academic paper, EuroSDR best practice report and inform future stages of RPAS EuroSDR studies. All participants in the study will be credited throughout as appropriate and invited to participate in the project workshop. At the end of the study, all data used (including ground truth) will be made available to all open access.

Register to participate

If you are interested in participating in this benchmark exercise and would like to access the datasets collected for the purposes of the research, please complete and submit the following Expression of Interest form. We will contact you with further information on how to download the datasets once your EoI has been received and considered.

Register interest to participate

About us

We are the Geospatial Engineering research group in the School of Engineering at Newcastle University with a long history of research and teaching across geospatial disciplines. EuroSDR is a not-for-profit organisation linking National Mapping and Cadastral Agencies with Research Institutes and Universities in Europe for the purpose of applied research in spatial data provision, management and delivery.


EuroSDR funds this benchmark study. We would like to thank DJI, Heliguy and Routescene for assisting the data collection exercise, and Leica Geosystems for provision of surveying equipment used in the ground exercise. Newcastle University equipment used in this study was funded by UKCRIC - UK Collaboratorium for Research in Infrastructure & Cities: Newcastle Laboratories (EP/R010102/1).


If you have any questions or comments, please get in touch with Dr Maria Peppa ( or Professor Jon Mills (