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The world’s most extensive tropical peatlands occur in the Cuvette Centrale depression in the Congo Basin, which stores 30.6 petagrams of carbon (95% CI, 6.3–46.8). Improving our understanding of the genesis, development and functioning of these under-studied peatlands requires knowledge of their topography and, in particular, whether the peat surface is domed, as this implies a rain-fed system. Here we use a laser altimeter mounted on an unmanned airborne vehicle (UAV) to measure peat surface elevation along two transects at the edges of a peatland, in the northern Republic of Congo, to centimetre accuracy and compare the results with an analysis of nearby satellite LiDAR data (ICESat and ICESat-2). The LiDAR elevations on both transects show an upward slope from the peatland edge, suggesting a surface elevation peak of around 1.8 m over ~20 km. While modest, this domed shape is consistent with the peatland being rainfed. In-situ peat depth measurements and our LiDAR results indicate that this peatland likely formed at least 10,000 years BP in a large shallow basin ~40 km wide and ~3 m deep.