Journal of Geographical Sciences ›› 2019, Vol. 29 ›› Issue (5): 846-860.doi: 10.1007/s11442-019-1632-z

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Measuring the area of cultivated land reclaimed from rural settlements using an unmanned aerial vehicle

Cunjian YANG1(), Guanghong XU2, Hechao LI3, Defei YANG4, He HUANG5, Jing NI1, Xiao LI6, Xiao XIANG3   

  1. 1. Research Center of Remote Sensing and Geographic Information System Application, Key Laboratory of Land Resources Evaluation and Monitoring in Southwest, Ministry of Education, Sichuan Normal University, Chengdu 610068, China
    2. Chongqing University of Posts and Telecommunications, Chongqing 400065, China
    3. Sichuan Land Consolidation and Rehabilitation Center, Chengdu 610045, China
    4. College of Landscape Architecture, Nanjing Forestry University, Nanjing 210037, China
    5. College of Fundamental Education, Sichuan Normal University, Chengdu 610068, China
    6. Sichuan Land Survey and Planning Research Institute, Chengdu 610045, China
  • Received:2018-09-18 Accepted:2019-01-10 Online:2019-05-25 Published:2019-04-19
  • About author:

    Author: Yang Cunjian (1967-), PhD, specialized in GIS and remote sensing. E-mail:

  • Supported by:
    National Key Research and Development Program of China, No.2018YFB0505303;Science and Technology Support Project of China, No.2014BAL01804;Science and Technology Project of Sichuan Provincial Department of Education, No.11ZA098


Investigating and monitoring the area of cultivated land reclaimed from rural settlements is important to optimize rural land use and understand spatial patterns. Measuring cultivated land area is costly and inefficient, however, as this land use type is often widely dispersed and scattered. A new method is therefore explored in this study that utilizes a Phantom2 Vision + (P2V), one kind of Dajiang (DJI) unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV). The method proposed here includes generating rural settlement images using a P2V UAV, subsequently correcting them using a camera lens model, matching them with geo-coded high resolution alternatives, mosaicking them, measuring the area of cultivated land reclaimed from rural settlements, evaluating measurement accuracy, and analyzing overall efficiency. The results of this study show that use of a P2V UAV is reasonable in price, less than 8000 yuan (RMB), and that this method is able to measure cultivated land area reclaimed from rural settlements with 99% accuracy. This method is therefore low cost, highly efficient, and low risk, as well as being easy to learn and use. This UAV-based approach is also likely to be easily popularized and be particularly useful both for application across plains and flats as well as over mountains and hills. The method proposed in this study is also likely to prove beneficial for monitoring and managing rural land use and future consolidation.

Key words: unmanned aerial vehicle, remote sensing, reclaimed cultivated land, rural settlements, image mosaic