Sandy beaches are highly dynamic systems which provide natural protection from the impact of waves to coastal communities. With coastal erosion hazards predicted to increase globally, data to inform decision making on erosion mitigation and adaptation strategies is becoming critical. However, multi-temporal topographic data over wide geographical areas is expensive and time consuming and often requires highly trained professionals. In this study we demonstrate a novel approach combining citizen science with low-cost unmanned aerial vehicles that reliably produces survey-grade morphological data able to model sediment dynamics from event to annual scales. The high-energy wave-dominated coast of south-eastern Australia, in Victoria, is used as a field laboratory to test the reliability of our protocol and develop a set of indices to study multi-scale erosional dynamics. We found that citizen scientists provide unbiased data as accurate as professional researchers. We then observed that open-ocean beaches mobilise three times as much sediment as embayed beaches and distinguished between slowed and accelerated erosional modes. The data was also able to assess the efficiency of sand nourishment for shore protection. Our citizen science protocol provides high quality monitoring capabilities, which although subject to important legislative preconditions, it is applicable in other parts of the world and transferable to other landscape systems where the understanding of sediment dynamics is critical for management of natural or anthropogenic processes.