In Burkina Faso, in Africa’s Sahel region, a team of drone operators is making land surveying for irrigation and agriculture more accurate, faster and cheaper.
More than 40 percent of Burkina Faso’s population lives below the national poverty line and according to the The World Bankit faces degraded soils, chronic drought, flash floods, windstorms and disease outbreaks from the effects of climate change.
Claudel Guiellatraining coordinator at Flying Labs of Burkina Faso explains that for these reasons, agriculture based on a water management system is vital for the socio-economic development of the communities there.
“In 2023, we sought to harness drone technology in the field of rural development by partnering with Agricultural Development Project of Soumwhich has developed an irrigation scheme covering more than 1,000 hectares in Shum village, benefiting more than 5,000 rural households,” he says, adding that with conventional surveying techniques, engineers have to travel long distances, often tens of miles on foot. research points.
The drones, flying 360 feet above the ground, measured physical or physical features of the earth with less than two inches of absolute accuracy, resulting in an accurate result, an 80% saving in the usual budget allocation and faster delivery than conventional techniques.
“Drone surveys offer a better description of the terrain by producing more points (tens of millions) than conventional techniques (a few hundred for the same area), resulting in a more accurate canvas for civil engineering work,” Guiella says, adding that the application of technology could make this sector more attractive and more open to women.
He says Burkina Faso’s development strategy has plans to develop over 30,000 hectares of irrigated land, and his team hopes to consolidate what they learned in the pilot phase to expand this drone-based solution.
Guiella grew up in Ouagadougou, the capital of the West African country of Burkina Faso.
After obtaining a degree in Computer Networks and Telecommunications from the École Supérieure des Avancées techniqueshe then worked as a computer systems and network administrator in a mid-sized industrial company before pursuing his passion for drones, artificial intelligence and geographic information systems.
“As a member of the Flying Labs Network, a global network of experts in drone technology and artificial intelligence, I develop solutions to strengthen the resilience of communities in Burkina Faso to the challenges of climate change and insecurity,” says Guiella. The addition of the pilot project shows how important it is for the Global South to develop its own capabilities.
“When people talk about drones and agriculture, they immediately refer to precision agriculture, but this system is not adapted to the current agricultural context in Burkina Faso,” he says, “However, this technology can still have a strong impact if beneficiaries are actively involved in the ideation process, facilitated by local expertise.’
Drones For Fighting Disease
Elsewhere in the Global South, Peruvian researcher Dr Gabriel Carrasco-Escobar, from the Alexander von Humboldt Institute of Tropical Medicine at the Universidad Peruana Cayetano Heredia (UPCH), is using drones and sensors to study the relationships between climate and diseases (such as dengue , malaria and leptospirosis) at a very local level so that local authorities can make evidence-based policy decisions.
“A well-calibrated prediction model with sufficient spatial and temporal resolution can serve as an early warning or rapid response system and help mitigate the public health impact of these diseases,” says Carrasco-Escobar, adding that this work is a natural evolution of the ongoing HARMONIZE project, which aimed to build resilience against climate-sensitive infectious diseases in low- and medium-resource settings.
“One of the biggest challenges we have faced is the lack of geospatial data at the required spatial and temporal resolution; but to address this, we have developed new low-cost technologies in the Loreto region of Peru, including drones for high-resolution RGB, thermal and multispectral imaging, autonomous recording acoustic sensors, weather stations and air pollution sensors,” he says, “We now have protocols in place to standardize data collection and streamline data flows, and we will soon integrate this data into a local dengue predictive model.”