Americas Multirotor

UAS Urban Mapping for the World Bank


At the 2013 annual World Bank conference on land and poverty  Walter Volkmann, Land Surveyor of Micro Aerial Projects LLC, Dr. Grenville Barnes of the University of Florida and Kevin Barthel of the Millenium Challenge Corporation presented some of the experimental UAV supported cadastral mapping work they did in Ghana.

Subsequently a World Bank innovation grant was awarded to conduct further tests of UAV technology in Albania where there is a dire need for improving spatial data quality – especially for the purpose of registering real property rights.

Kathrine Kelm, a lawyer and senior land administration specialist working for the World Bank, who has worked in Albania for many years and who is fluent in Albanian, coordinated two visits in December 2013 and May 2014 to Albania where the team from Micro Aerial Projects LLC put their experience and skills to work in both rural and urban settings.

Thanks to the diligent pre-project preparations and equipment configurations of Micro Aerial Projects operations manager, Oliver Volkmann, the experience and knowledge gained in Ghana and elsewhere in the world could be safely and efficiently applied in Albania where the team for the first time ventured into high density urban space. The success of the Albanian experience proved that affordable equipment assembled from off the shelf parts and controlled by open source electronics and software can indeed be employed safely for professional, non-military purposes in developed as well as developing environments.

One of the key messages coming out of the Albanian project is that small, affordable and field repairable drones can be deployed by small enterprises at the local level, thus significantly shortening the supply lines for mapping as well as improving citizen engagement and strengthening local capacities. In addition to the advantages gained by local communities in using small drones in geo-spatial data production, international development agents can use this technology for project design, project monitoring, resettlement action plans and other general evaluation tasks.

Since small drone operations are much less dependent on scale of economy than conventional aerial mapping methods, the many different roles of small drones can be more efficiently integrated into development workflows. Instead of enduring long procurement periods for conventional wide area mapping services, development and national mapping agencies can now follow “ordered just in time” policies to incrementally deliver mapping and geo-spatial products as and when needed, thus making sure that spatial information is fresh and fit for purpose.

Before developing communities can enjoy the benefits of small drone technology, development and mapping agencies will have to embrace, promote and invest in building decentralized small enterprise mapping capacities. With the rapid expansion of telecommunication infrastructure, small mapping enterprises all over the world will have access to a vast international network of small drone users and developers who enthusiastically are sharing their experiences and skills via the internet.

The use of small drones in urban mapping was recently described in a presentation at the North Florida Region ASPRS annual meeting in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida.

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