One fundamental metric to characterize trees and forest stands is the diameter at breast height (DBH). However, the vertical geometry of tree stems hampers a direct measurement by means of orthographic aerial imagery. Nevertheless, the DBH in deciduous forest stands could be measured from UAV-based imagery using the width of a stem´s cast shadow projected on the ground. Here, we compare in-situ measured DBH of 100 trees with the DBH visually interpreted from cast-shadows derived in UAV-based aerial imagery. Then, based on simulated datasets, we determine suitable DBH sampling sizes for a robust and efficient retrieval of stand diameter distributions. The UAV-based DBH estimation resulted in an r² of 0.74, RMSE of 7.61 cm, NRMSE of 12.8% and approximately unbiased results. According to our simulations it can be assumed that a sample size of 25-50 individual DBH measurements per forest stand allows estimating reliable diameter distributions. The presented pilot study gives a first insight on the potential of such an approach for operational assessments of diameter distribution in deciduous forest stands and might be particularly interesting for stands in difficult terrain situations. ... mehrThe presented approach can be extended to estimate the basal area, timber stock or biomass.