GFIA Africa 2015 Session on Drones for agriculture: stepping into the future


I was honored to be invited to speak at GFIA 2015 by Giacomo Rambaldi Sr. Programme Coordinator, ICTsTechnical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation ACP-EU (CTA) here are the presentations from our session.

Drones on the horizon: Drones on the horizon: New frontiers for precision agriculturedrones on the horizon

The world of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) or drones has been the playing ground of security institutions for many years. Even though remote controlled UAVs have been around for a long time, the cost and complexity of miniaturized avionics made it prohibitively expensive to automate such small platforms.  In the last few years this has changed dramatically. Commercialization and mass production of cheap small avionics together with advances in software allowing three dimensional vision and remote image interpretation make it possible now to build a drone that can do centimeter precision spatial surveys on a surprisingly small budget. This opens a slew of possibilities in the application of precision agriculture.

The ABCs of UAVsabcofuav

This presentation provides an introduction to UAVs and specifically their use in the world of GIS: what they are, the different kinds of UAV and what they are good at. Examples of their use, strengths and weaknesses are illustrated.

Air-borne remote sensing as a monitoring tool for smallholder’s cropping systems in East Africactaquad

To achieve sustainable food and nutritional security while maintaining or reducing financial and environmental costs, smallholder farmers need to be supported by high-tech systems. Low-cost but robust sensors mounted on unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) along with open source software constitute emerging solutions. To this end, a “proof of concept” is under investigation in Eastern Africa. A workshop held in Nairobi resulted in the establishment of a community of practice on agricultural UAVs in East Africa. First field mission was conducted in Tanzania. Field work has yet to take place in Kenya and Uganda once flight permits are issued. Salient advantages of small Unmanned Aerial Systems (sUAS), preliminary results and bottlenecks will be outlined in this presentation.

Making sense of drones’ governancemakingsenseofdronegvernance

While the use of autonomous aircrafts dates back almost 100 years, in recent time drones have featured in the news because of their use for surveillance or striking purposes in conflict situations. Said that, the civil use of remotely piloted aircraft systems (RPAS), formerly defined as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), has spread in many Northern countries over the past few years because of technology becoming increasingly affordable and easy to use also for non-professional pilots. The rapid spread in the use of RPAS has taken most civil aviation authorities ill-equipped in terms of how to best govern their use in order to ripe the benefits of the new technology and minimize the inherent risks of an increasing number of flying objects populating the skies. This presentation will provide a synthesis of the history of RPAS, challenges currently faces by the concerned authorities and progress made in Africa, with the example of South Africa, being the first African country enacting laws and regulations governing the civilian use of RPAS.

UAVs: granular remote sensing solutions to leverage smallholder agriculturestars

As agriculture shifts from subsistence to commercial levels in Africa, UAVs will increasingly provide the granularity and agility required to monitor agricultural operations and performance in smallholder conditions, and hence the ability to provide advisories that capitalize on heterogeneity, rather than avoid it. The International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), along with other world-leading institutions is heralding this new era of decentralized information streams in Mali and Nigeria, generating unprecedented datasets that reveal the enormous variability encountered in African cropping systems. UAV technology will help decrease the cost of crop performance monitoring over space and time. Embedded into mobile data streams, imagery will assist agricultural value chain actors optimize their businesses and support the development of technologically advanced rural jobs attractive for the youth.

Mapping for the people by the people – the promise of small drones and computer vision in support of community based land managementvolter

Recent advances in aerial robotics and automated image processing techniques are joining forces to break down the entry barriers to autonomous mapping services. Decentralization of national mapping capacities has the potential to significantly improve land administration and management at the local level. Mapping services delivered by local enterprises much more readily facilitate meaningful community participation in the mapping process itself and subsequent planning. High resolutions of drone derived geo-spatial products lend themselves particularly well for visualization and understanding by all concerned, thus supporting fully informed decision making by stake holders in planning the use and allocation of resources. This presentation will focus on decentralized mapping and cover the following topics: (i) the components of small unmanned aerial systems (sUAS), (ii) a typical workflow to prepare a map with the use of a small drone, (iii) typical geo-spatial products derived from aerial images acquired by a drone, (iv) analysis and visualization of drone derived products, (v) operational constraints and (vi) selected case material with relevance to rural and informal settings.