Due to its unique geographical location and regional climate, the Yellow River and its tributaries are prone to ice jams almost every spring. Ice jams can cause levees to burst, leading to severe flooding, property damage, and human casualties. Hence, there is an urgent need to carry out observations of ice conditions and make risk assessments of ice jam occurrence. Field observation is the most reliable technique, but it is usually too expensive and time-consuming, which has led to the evaluation of applied remote sensing for data capture and analysis. Owing to the factors of timeliness, image resolution, human safety, and cost, satellite or manned aerial remote sensing cannot fully meet the requirements of ice condition observation. An unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) remote sensing system is proposed for the collection of river ice imagery, providing the benefits of low cost, flexible launch and landing logistics, safety, and appropriate hyperspatial image resolution. One Inner Mongolian segment of the Yellow River was chosen as a test area to demonstrate key technologies and specific procedures of observation and assessment of ice conditions using the UAV system. The specific UAV remote sensing system and its components are introduced along with the procedures of UAV operation and imagery acquisition. Image preprocessing techniques and ice information extraction are described in detail followed by analysis and risk assessment of the ice conditions based on the resulting panoramic imagery. Results prove the feasibility and effectiveness of applying the fixed-wing UAV system to rapid observation and risk assessment of ice jam formation over the Yellow River under harsh weather conditions including low temperatures and strong winds.