Exploring Geological Wonders: Mapping Dorset’s Cliff Faces with Drones


Geologists from South Wales University embarked on a fascinating mission to map and analyze the striking cliff faces of Dorset. Armed with advanced drone technology, a Real-Time Kinematic (RTK) base station, and carefully placed geo-reference points, their goal was to create detailed 3D models of the cliffs. The four distinct areas chosen for mapping – Lyme Regis, the East side of Portland, Osmington Mills, and West Bay – each offered unique geological features and challenges. In this blog, we’ll delve into each of these locations and the geological wonders they harbor.

1. Lyme Regis:

Nestled along the Jurassic Coast, Lyme Regis is a geological paradise. The geologists chose this location for its rich history and diverse rock formations. The cliffs here expose layers of sedimentary rocks that date back to the Jurassic period, offering a glimpse into Earth’s history. Lyme Regis is known for its iconic ammonite fossils, a testament to the region’s ancient marine life.

The drone survey at Lyme Regis provided high-resolution imagery, enabling geologists to study the intricate details of these rocks. The resulting 3D models offered insights into the cliffs’ structural integrity and evolution over millions of years, which could prove invaluable for understanding coastal erosion and preservation efforts.

2. East Side of Portland:

Portland, an island just off the Dorset coast, is renowned for its limestone quarries and unique geology. The East side of Portland, specifically, features cliffs that expose the famous Portland Stone, a prized building material. The area’s rock formations are a record of changing environmental conditions over time.

Geologists utilized drones to capture detailed images of the Portland Stone cliffs, which could be further analyzed to identify rock types, fractures, and potential quarrying sites. By creating 3D models, researchers gained a better understanding of the geological features that make Portland Stone so unique.

3. Osmington Mills:

Osmington Mills is a picturesque coastal location with a diverse geological history. Its cliffs reveal layers of sedimentary rock and provide valuable insights into the region’s past. The area is characterized by the alternating patterns of shale, limestone, and sandstone, all of which have their own stories to tell.

The drone survey here allowed geologists to create 3D models that showcased the complex layering of rock formations. By studying these models, researchers gained a deeper understanding of the geological processes that shaped the Osmington Mills cliffs and how they continue to evolve.

4. West Bay:

West Bay, situated on the Jurassic Coast, boasts impressive cliffs of Bridport Sandstone. This sandstone contains a wealth of fossils and intricate sedimentary structures, making it a treasure trove for geologists and paleontologists. The region’s geological history is evident in the exposed layers of rock.

Using drones to map the West Bay cliffs, geologists were able to capture detailed imagery of the sandstone and its unique features. The 3D models created from these images enabled researchers to better study the sedimentary structures and fossil-rich layers, aiding in the interpretation of the area’s geological history.


The drone survey undertaken by geologists from South Wales University at four distinct locations in Dorset – Lyme Regis, the East side of Portland, Osmington Mills, and West Bay – has provided valuable insights into the geological wonders of this region. By harnessing cutting-edge technology, they have created detailed 3D models of the cliff faces, helping to unravel the geological mysteries that lie within these stunning coastal formations. These models not only aid in understanding the past but also contribute to the conservation and preservation of these unique geological sites, ensuring that they continue to inspire and educate future generations.