A generic and robust approach for the real-time detection of people and vehicles from an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) is an important goal within the framework of fully autonomous UAV deployment for aerial reconnaissance and surveillance. Here we present an approach for the automatic detection of vehicles based on using multiple trained cascaded Haar classifiers with secondary confirmation in thermal imagery. Additionally we present a related approach for people detection in thermal imagery based on a similar cascaded classification technique combining additional multivariate Gaussian shape matching. The results presented show the successful detection of vehicle and people under varying conditions in both isolated rural and cluttered urban environments with minimal false positive detection. Performance of the detector is optimized to reduce the overall false positive rate by aiming at the detection of each object of interest (vehicle/person) at least once in the environment (i.e. per search patter flight path) rather than every object in each image frame. Currently the detection rate for people is ~70% and cars ~80% although the overall episodic object detection rate for each flight pattern exceeds 90%.© (2011) COPYRIGHT Society of Photo-Optical Instrumentation Engineers (SPIE). Downloading of the abstract is permitted for personal use only.