World Bank Using UAVs for Disaster Risk Reduction in Tanzania

An innovative World Bank team in Tanzania is exploring the use of UAVs for disaster risk reduction efforts. Spearheaded by colleague Edward Anderson, the team recently partnered with friends at Drone Adventures to capture very high-resolution images of flood-prone areas in the country’s capital. This imagery is now being used to generate Digital Terrain Models to develop more reliable flood-inundation models at an unparalleled level of resolution. This project is a joint effort with the Commission for Science and Technology (COSTECH) and kindly supported by the Swedish International Development Agency and the Global Facility for Disaster Risk Reduction (GFDRR), working in partnership with the Tanzania Red Cross.

Drone Adventures flew dozens of flights over the course of 10 days, covering close to 90km² at a resolution of 4cm-8cm. They used eBees, which weigh about 700 grams and are 95% foam-based with a small properly facing the back, which makes the UAV extra safe. Here are some pictures (click to enlarge) from the recent mission in Dar es Salam, courtesy of Mark Iliffe from the Bank.

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The World Bank Team also used a DJI Phantom 2 UAV pictured below. Like Drone Adventures, they also took the time to engage local communities. This approach to community engagement in UAV projects is an important component of the UAViators Code of Conduct and Guidelines. The team is using the DJI Phantom to inform urban planning and transportation conversations, and to quickly assess flood impact, as this video explains.

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Most of the resulting imagery has already been added to OpenAerialMap here. The imagery is also being used here as part of the Missing Maps project. This has already improved the level of detail of Dar es Salam maps. For example, compare the level of detail in this map before the aerial imagery was made available:


With these more detailed maps enabled by the availability of aerial imagery:


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And here’s a comparison of a satellite image (taken from Google Earth) of a neighborhood in Dar es Salam with an areal image (from an eBee) at around the same spatial resolution.

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As Mark from the World Bank noted during a recent conversation, making this aerial imagery open and making the data derived from this imagery open “gives agencies and municipalities data that they’ve not had access to previously. But there are still outstanding questions such as authoritativeness that need to be resolved. There is a lot of institutional work with statistics and mapping agencies that is ongoing to validate the data and ensure they’re happy with it, prior to it augmenting traditional mapping practices. That’s where we’re at currently.”

Acknowledgements: Many thanks to Edward & Mark for sharing their efforts.

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