African Association of
Remote Sensing of the Environment


All the latest news on AARSE and remote sensing.
  • 06 Jun 2016 1:27 PM | AARSE Admin (Administrator)

    Geomakani 2016 – Geospatial Technologies Conference - was recently held in Cairo, Egypt. The conference was organized by a local company, Edge Pro – for Information Services.

    This year’s conference took place on May the 17th and was held at the Royal Maxim Palace Kiminski in Cairo.

    Geomakani is an excellent platform to increase awareness and exposure for Egypt’s geo-spatial experts representing private companies and organizations; however the majority of the private sector comprised of services providers from the Western World. 400+ participants from eleven countries attended the conference.

    The programme consisted of three plenary sessions that targeted new technologies and societal benefits including:

    • Natural Resources and Infrastructure
    • Defense, Security and Intelligence and Lidar
    • AR and Optical Sensors

     The thematic areas of the conference were Remote Sensing, Geographical Information Systems (GIS), global positioning system (GPS), Photogrammetry, VHR satellite imagery, Light Detection and Ranging (Lidar) & Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR).

    Four technical workshops were held prior to the conference highlighting technological themes in the geospatial information arena.

    • 3D Geospatial Data Applications and Industries for Decision Making,
    • Ground and Airborne Hyperspectral Systems and Riegl LiDAR Technology,
    • Airports and Airbases, Ports and Bases, and Facilities and Cantonment Areas, and
    • Smart Enterprise GIS Solutions for Utilities

    AARSE was invited to attend the conference and was represented by AARSE’s Vice President for Northern Africa - Dr. Islam Abou El-Magd

    Dr. El-Magd, spoke of the major role AARSE plays on a continental level, to widen the network of the geospatial information community and the aim to open dialogue between professionals and policy makers alike.

  • 06 Jun 2016 11:53 AM | AARSE Admin (Administrator)
    Source: BDLive

    IN SOUTH African waters, beyond the sight of land or any other vessel, a ship’s smoke plume rises into the atmosphere. Its heat signature is written on the surrounding air, and overhead — less than 2,000km away — a tiny satellite is watching it. It is 2019, and the country’s oceans are monitored by a constellation of nanosatellites transmitting live data back to Earth.

    SA’s ocean territory is larger than its land space, and if its claim to extend it is successful, its ocean geography will double.

    This is why the government, as part of Operation Phakisa, is turning to satellites. Operation Phakisa aimed to boost the country’s ocean revenue to R177bn by 2033, from R54bn in 2010, President Jacob Zuma said at the operation’s launch in 2014.

    "Nanosatellites were written into Phakisa’s founding documents," says Robert van Zyl, director of satellite engineering systems at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT). CPUT houses the French South African Institute of Technology’s CubeSat programme.

    "(CPUT) have been mandated by the Department of Science and Technology to develop ship-tracking services on a nanosatellite constellation, MDASat."

    Short for marine domain aware satellites, MDASat will be a constellation of nine CubeSats.

    CubeSats, a type of nanosatellite, are a burgeoning area of satellite-manufacturing. They are cube-shaped satellites small enough to fit into a person’s palm.

    At about 10cm, they weigh no more than 1.3kg. Up to six of these cubes can be stacked together with different payloads, such as sensors or cameras, on them.

    They are substantially cheaper than larger satellites, which run into millions of dollars.

    "A CubeSat can be built for about $100,000 and launched for much the same, depending on the complexity of the mission," Van Zyl says. "For this reason, CubeSats were initially used to train students for the aerospace industry, but now these small spacecraft can be used to track and trace aircraft and vessels at sea."

    SA already has one CubeSat in orbit, ZA-Cube1 — otherwise known as TshepisoSAT. This CubeSat, which is still operational, was launched by CPUT in 2013. It has a high-frequency beacon that can beam messages from space.

    ZA-Cube2, however, will be expected to do much more.

    As the precursor to the constellation, it will be fitted with receivers to pick up signals from ships in the ocean, and transmit information back to Earth.


    BIG vessels are fitted with automatic-identification service (AIS) beacons that transmit tracking and identity information to nearby vessels and authorities.

    "We have to make (the AIS detector) small enough to fit on a CubeSat," Van Zyl says.

    CPUT is teaming up with technology company Three Stone in Somerset West that is responsible for developing the firmware.

    "ZA-Cube2 will also have a powerful (optical) camera on it and a near infrared camera — we want to see if we can distinguish fire or, ideally, the heat plume of a ship," Van Zyl says.

    It will also be able to detect AIS beacons. "That way, if you see a ship with no AIS beacon, (you know that) there might be a problem. This data is important in addressing piracy and illegal fishing."

    The department’s chief director of space science and technology, Humbulani Mudau, says the constellation — expected to be in the sky by 2019 — will initially focus on "all South African terrestrial and maritime territories, including the exclusive economic zone and the continental shelf".

    SA’s exclusive economic zone extends about 200 nautical miles from its coastline. This is an area in which SA has the sovereign right to use the ocean’s resources — for energy, mining, or fishing.

    The use of satellites could identify fishing areas, ensure the safety of shipping vessels, and do real-time monitoring of oil spills, Mudau says. Concerns around oil spillages were highlighted in a Department of Environmental Affairs presentation to Parliament in April last year.

    "We are located along a very busy shipping route with harsh ocean conditions," says deputy director-general for oceans and coasts Monde Mayekiso.

    This means the area is vulnerable to oil spill incidents from ships, with more than 20 serious marine pollution incidents reported since 1994.

    Mudau says the constellation would allow for rapid response to problems in SA’s oceans, "which is a critical requirement for law enforcement and first-responder rescue operations".

    The project has been allocated R98m over five years, which will cover the satellites’ manufacture, launch, operations, and commercialisation, Mudau says.

    The government — through the departments of science and technology, and trade and industry — has been pushing satellite manufacturing for more than a decade, but industry has not been kind to the high-technology niche.


    SATELLITE company SunSpace, established by a group of Stellenbosch University alumni and responsible for democratic SA’s first home-grown satellite, Sumbandila, failed to attract the contracts that would sustain it, and died a protracted death before it was absorbed into state-owned Denel Dynamics in 2013.

    But CubeSats appear to be a low-risk way into satellite manufacturing, with both CPUT and Stellenbosch University developing capacity.

    Herman Steyn was part of SunSpace and now heads Stellenbosch University’s satellite engineering unit.

    "After Sumbandila, there were no funds to do the space project…. In the meantime, I don’t want to do nothing. CubeSats are not expensive," he says.

    "We have good engineers in SA, so I thought, ‘Let’s continue with CubeSats’."

    Stellenbosch University is part of QB50, a European Commission project that will see the construction, launch, and destruction of 50 CubeSats.

    The project aims to increase countries’ access to space.

    Stellenbosch University’s spin-out company, CubeSpace, will be building the control system for these nanosatellites.

    "Up until now, most CubeSats have been uncontrolled, randomly tumbling in orbit. It is difficult to position your antennas to the ground station, your solar panels to the sun, your camera to Earth," Steyn says.

    "There are not many companies — fortunately for us — that supply control systems for CubeSats."

    SA will be contributing one CubeSat, called ZA-AeroSat, to the QB50 mission.

    Steyn’s unit is collaborating with CPUT on the MDASat constellation, by providing the control systems.

    In turn, CPUT will supply Stellenbosch University with transmitter and transceiver modules that will allow its CubeSats to receive and transmit signals.

    Mudau says space technologies have a vital role to play in SA, such as in telecommunications, Earth observation and space sciences.

    And importantly, for a developing country with a high technology skills shortage, they are a relatively cheap way to train postgraduates in space engineering.

    The MDASat project is expected to see 60 masters’ degree graduates trained and ready to enter SA’s small space industry.

    Original article

  • 06 Jun 2016 11:43 AM | AARSE Admin (Administrator)

    Source: MESA

    “Satellites cannot observe fish directly but can contribute to sustainable fishing by providing continued and global monitoring of the marine environment” said Mr. Prendut Koonjoo, Minister of Ocean Economy, Marine Resources, Fisheries, Shipping and Outer Islands of the Republic of Mauritius. Space-based and in situ Earth Observation data, coupled with other related data, provide information on ocean conditions and fish distribution dynamics in marine and coastal areas. Through the MESA Project, fishermen benefit from this type of technology to get information on the locations of potential fishing spots in five African Indian Ocean nations in the Indian Ocean Commission (IOC) and fourteen West African countries in the ECOWAS region.


    Fish represents 60% of total animal protein consumed in Ghana. More than 200 million Africans eat fish regularly. Fresh, but more often smoked, dried, or even as powder, fish is a source of dietary protein and micronutrients for many communities in Africa. Fish is also an accessible and affordable source of animal protein for many households in Africa. Nutritionally, fish is an important direct source of protein and micronutrients for millions of people in Africa. The Monitoring for Environment and Security in Africa (MESA) Project, through its regional implementing centres for marine thematic actions, Mauritius Oceanography Institute and University of Ghana, is providing improved Potential Fishing Zone (PFZ) charts, to Ministries of Fisheries in the IOC and the ECOWAS regions.


    Eunice Nuerkie Ofoli-Anum is a National Focal Point for the MESA Project in Ghana. She witnessed that the product and services of the MESA Project “tell us where exactly fish productivity is very high, where we can get more fish and specifically particular kind of fish. It really helped us, Ghanaians. The majority of Ghanaians depend on fish.”

    The MESA Project provides fishing vessel traffic information on fishing effort and activities of fishing vessels within the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of countries. This service supports and helps curb widespread illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing activities in the IOC and ECOWAS regions. “Global losses due to Illegal Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) or ‘pirate fishing’ are estimated to be between US$ 10 billion and US $ 23.5 billion per year. West African waters are estimated to have the highest levels of IUU fishing in the world, representing up to 37 percent of the region’s catch” pointed out Madam Sherry Ayittey, the Minister for Fisheries in Ghana. On the 20th of May 2015, BBC also reported that “more than 70 Chinese vessels have been found fishing illegally off the coast of West Africa.”

    The MESA Project is a European Union funded Programme (37 Million €, 2012-2017), implemented with the overall coordination of the African Union Commission and steering by the Regional Economic Communities (CEMAC, ECOWAS, IGAD, IOC and SADC) and the ACP Secretariat, in close cooperation with the European Union Delegation to the African Union and partners such as EUMETSAT and the EC Joint Research Centre (JRC).


    The Project is implemented by the African Regional Economic Communities (RECs) through their specialised technical institutions including the Botswana Department of Meteorological Services and SADC Climate Services Centre for the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) region, the International Commission for Congo-Oubangui-Sangha Basin (CICOS) for Central Africa, the AGRHYMET Regional Centre for the Economic Commission for West African States (ECOWAS), the IGAD Climate Prediction and Applications Centre (ICPAC) for the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), Mauritius Oceanography Institute (MOI) for the Indian Ocean Commission (IOC), University of Ghana for the ECOWAS, and the African Centre of Meteorological Applications for Development (ACMAD) provides climate services for disaster risk reduction for the African continent.


    Original article

  • 06 Jun 2016 11:37 AM | AARSE Admin (Administrator)

    Source: Via Satellite

    South Africa-based Space Commercial Services Aerospace Group (SCS AG) has acquired the imagery distribution rights for sub-Saharan Africa from UrtheCast. Under the agreement SCS AG provides imagery products from UrtheCast’s two cameras on board the International Space Station (ISS) as well as its two Deimos satellites.


    UrtheCast takes high-resolution satellite images and video footage, which are applicable for private sector and government projects. Space Commercial Services Global Information (SCSGi), a subsidiary of SCS AG specialized in imagery and geospatial information solutions, will be the master distributor for the African continent imagery.


    “We are looking forward to utilizing the data to support a wide range of applications such as crop assessments, forestry management, environmental protection, insurance risk assessments, infrastructure monitoring, urban and rural development, border control and maritime security. Our image rights acquisition from UrtheCast has increased our capacity to provide customers with value-added information services to the point of decision-making,” said Retief Gerber, CEO of SCSGi.

    Original article

  • 11 May 2016 8:34 AM | AARSE Admin (Administrator)

    African Association of Remote Sensing of the Environment (AARSE) is a participating organization in the Group on Earth Observations (GEO).

    The AARSE delegation was led by Dr. Sias Mostert (AARSE: Treasurer) also present were Jane Bemigisha (LOC: AARSE 2016 Conference, Uganda), Ms. Barbara Ryan (Group on Earth Observations (GEO): Secretariat Director) and Bulelwa Semoli (AARSE: Southern Africa Representative) at the Symposium which was held at The Elephant Hills Hotel, Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe.


    According to Bulelwa Semoli - the 1st Afrigeoss Symposium was a success with a good turnout from 32 African countries. She further notes that “the Afrigeoss supports the implementation of the African Union 2063 Agenda. It provides a platform to implement the Societal Benefits Areas (SBAs) in order to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).   It is also important that national and regional GEO initiatives are linked to the AU’s policies in order to make a meaningful impact.”


    One of the outstanding presentations was the Australian Geoscience Data Cube and its result in unlocking the Landsat Archive spanning forty years of data. It’s a tool to be explored and was developed using open source software and standards.

     (See for more information)


    The broad outcomes of the symposium are:

    1. Strengthening AfriGEOSS governance structure to improve information flow between national, regional and global structures. The members of the steering committee shall be increased to 2 per region, and the steering committee should undertake the regional promotion and participation in AfriGEOSS.
    2. Establishing national GEO coordination mechanisms through the establishment of national GEO structures in all member states, with the aim of improving the use of earth observation for policy formulation and decision making.
    3. To continuing the demonstration of the relevance of EO by showcasing applications, information products and services that respond to societal challenges, particularly in the proposed priority areas of forest management, food security, urban planning and water resource management.
    4. Investigating the implementation of a continental level body on Food Security and Agriculture (AfriGAM) for the harmonization of on-going projects and initiatives.
    5. Developing a community of practice for forest management in Africa and bringing together all existing projects and initiatives.


    Dr. Sias Mostert foresees AfriGEOSS “as a platform for effective consensus building with regards to the needs and priorities of Africa and to unlock the potential of Africa when it comes to environmental and city management.”


    Dr. Jane Bemigisha places the emphasis on the private sector: “Strengthening engagement of the private sector with Governments and the AfriGEOSS community will enhance access and use of the vast Earth Observation products, knowledge and expertise within the private business communities.   However, the capacities of SMEs needs to be enhanced for them to deliver at required scales.”


    AARSE is looking forward to participate in the activities of AfriGEOSS and invite all AfriGEOSS participants to attend the upcoming AARSE conference which is being held this October in Uganda

    Click here to see the outcomes of the AfriGEOSS symposium

  • 10 May 2016 8:28 AM | AARSE Admin (Administrator)

    Source: UPI

    Next time you're passing above North Africa at an altitude of 440 miles, check out the Haruj volcanic field in central Libya. From space, the volcanic plateau looks like a giant oil spill.

    This week, NASA released a stunning image of the expansive Haruj. The image is the amalgamation of hundreds of photographs collected by NASA's Landsat 8 satellite and its Operational Land Imager between July 24, 2013 and April 13, 2016.

    Scientists used an algorithm to scan the images for the best and clearest pixels -- those unobscured by dust or clouds. Together, the best pixels form a crystal clear mosaic.

    Over the course of 5 million years during the early Pliocene, more than 120 volcanic vents leaked lava across the 17,000-square-mile plateau known as the Haruj. As the lava hardened, layer upon layer of basalt formed.

    A closeup image of the eastern edge of the volcanic field reveals depressions in the ancient basalt, many of which have been filled with sand blown by the desert winds. Some sandy pockets of older basalt -- those that are surrounded but not covered by younger lava flows -- are called kipuka.

    Original article

  • 10 May 2016 8:22 AM | AARSE Admin (Administrator)


    Anna Stephanie handed in her MSc thesis on “Impact of remote sensing characteristics for biodiversity monitoring”. Very impressive study on multi-scale, multi-model and multi-variable analysis of mangroves in Myanmar.


    While Myanmar is one of the world’s hotspots for biodiversity and endemism, it is currently undergoing enormous political and economic transformations which are likely to increase the pressure on its already endangered forest ecosystems. In this context, mangrove forests are of particular relevance, as they are not only among the Earth’s most imperiled tropical environments, but also provide numerous ecosystem services to humanity.

    To ensure an ecologically worthwhile management of mangrove ecosystems, it is necessary that inventories are undertaken on a regular basis. Remote sensing offers a cost efficient and rapid method to periodically monitor mangrove forests. However, the current availability of various sensor types and different classification methods complicateswell-informed selection of the most appropriate methodology for an effective biodiversity monitoring. In order to assist applied ecologists in this highly complex decision-making process, this study compared the suitability of medium-resolution Landsat 8 and high-resolution RapidEye imagery to accurately monitor mangrove forests.

    Spatial and spectral resolution, classification algorithms and different predictor combinations were investigated as influencing elements. A multi-scale classification approach was developed to account for the fact that biodiversity monitoring for conservation is typically conducted on numerous spatial scales ranging from local to global perspectives. By formulating recommendation for practitioners, this study’s aim was to bridge the gap between research and its implementation in applied conservation. Results of the analysis showed that medium-resolution Landsat 8 imagery mostly leads to higher classification accuracies than high-resolution RapidEye data in the context of mangrove mapping in Southern Myanmar.

    The comparison of different predictor combinations suggested, that this difference is mainly attributable to the additional spectral bands provided by the Landsat 8 sensor. By investigating RapidEye images with spatial resolutions of 5 – 30 meters, it was discovered that overall classification accuracies increased with coarser spatial resolution regarding the majority of land cover classes.

    Moreover, the accuracy of land cover predictions was strongly influenced by the choice of specific classification algorithms as well as the number and characteristics of predictor layers. Referring to the main findings of this study, the application of medium-resolution Landsat 8 data is recommended to applied conservationists. This is based on its superior performance in most of the classifications as well as on its cost-free availability.

    Original article

  • 10 May 2016 8:16 AM | AARSE Admin (Administrator)

    Source: Copernicus

    On 28 January 2016 the Sentinel-2A satellite captured central western Namibia, a colourful and diverse landscape of an area surrounding the Namib Naukluft Park.


    It includes the world’s oldest desert – and the Naukluft Mountain range, which is also the largest game park in Africa and the fourth largest in the world.


    The surface water of Namibia’s coast is relatively cold, so that moist air moving in with westerly winds cools and falls as rain before it reaches the coast, allowing only fog to reach inland. The fog enables life in this region for animals and insects.


    Sand dunes are represented by the burnt orange colour in the image, coming from the iron in the sand that is oxidised, developing this rusty-metal colour over time. It becomes brighter as the dune ages, as is clearly visible along the middle of this natural-colour image.


    The top-left part of the image is the Kuiseb River bordered on one side by some of the tallest sand dunes in the world, and on the other by barren rock.


    The top-right corner of the image is cut by the C14 Highway and to its right there is a rock formation with a ridgeline, with water flowing along both sides, giving life to vegetation.


    The Tsondab River is seen in the bottom of the image. The riverbed hits the colossal sand dunes, and appears bright white from the salt and mineral formations remaining after its water evaporates.


    The image comes from the Copernicus Sentinel-2A satellite, that has been in orbit since June 2015, providing data on vegetation health, among other applications.

    Original article

  • 10 May 2016 8:12 AM | AARSE Admin (Administrator)



    Researchers from the University of Leicester will be travelling to Kenya from 25 - 29 April to kick off a new satellite project that aims to monitor the world's forests in near real-time.

    The researchers hope that it will help forest land owners and national agencies to protect biodiversity and reduce climate change through the rapid detection of forest cover changes arising from unsustainable utilisation practices.

    The project is supported by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC).

    The University of Leicester is internationally renowned for its Space and Earth Observation research. The team travelling to Kenya includes Professor Heiko Balzter, Director of the Centre for Landscape and Climate Research at the University of Leicester, together with Dr Pedro Rodríguez Veiga and Dr Ciaran Robb from the University's Department of Geography and Dr Maggy Heintz from the Research and Enterprise Division.

    The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change includes an international initiative on 'Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation' (REDD+) whose aim include protection of carbon stocks and biodiversity in threatened ecosystems around the world. This way, carbon stays in the forest and is not released to the air, where it could lead to further global warming.

    One of the main constraints for the successful implementation of REDD+ that has been identified by policy makers, investors, financiers and scientists is the need for robust and objective Measurement, Reporting and Verification (MRV) systems.

    It has been recognised that satellite technology is the most feasible way to regularly monitor the world's forests in a timely fashion.

    Kenya has recently set out an ambitious climate change action plan and within the context of REDD+. The University of Leicester is working with the Ministry for Environment, Natural Resources and Regional Development Authorities, Kenya Forest Service and a Kenyan company Ukall Ltd to develop a prototype for a near-real-time forest cover change, monitoring service from Sentinel-1 and 2 satellite data. The service will use national forest definitions and is delivered directly in an easily accessible reporting format via a smartphone app to community forestry associations and the Kenya Forest Service.

    This will help Kenya in its REDD+ readiness efforts and demonstrate the value of satellite enabled forest monitoring and its application via mobile phone app development.

    Professor Balzter said: "After the greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels, tropical deforestation is the second largest contributor to global climate change. We will focus the initial prototype of our monitoring system at the scale of a national forest reserve in Kenya and make sure that community forestry associations and local communities also have access to the information.

    "Our aspiration is to support participatory forest management strategies to enable Kenya to manage its forests more sustainably and achieve its national forest cover target of minimum 10% by 2030. Our research has a huge potential impact if it contributes to Kenya's efforts to take up more carbon from the air and store it in the form of forest biomass.

    "The prototype will allow the Kenya Forest Service and the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources to have timely information on deforestation and forest degradation and have the means to establish a robust and objective Measurement, Reporting and Verification (MRV) system based on cutting-edge technology."

    During the visit the University of Leicester, together with the Kenya Forest Service (KFS), will organise a workshop to be hosted by KFS in Nairobi. Also participating will be our Kenyan based Partner, UKALL Limited, a leading mobile app design and development company, to be represented by their lead developer and CEO Catherine Kiguru and their Executive Chairman, Paul Rees.

    The objectives of the workshop are to engage interested parties in a dialogue and discuss forest monitoring user requirements, satellite forest monitoring service development, data availability, reporting format and agree on a forest test site to test the prototype.

    Apart from the workshop, a series of meetings with a variety of stakeholders including the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the Kenya Institute for Public Policy Research and Analysis and the Kenya Wildlife Service is planned while in Nairobi.

    This visit is a follow-up from an initial stakeholders engagement conducted by Professor Balzter and William Wells (Research and Enterprise Division at the University of Leicester) in October 2015, enabled by a NERC pathfinder grant aimed at conducting a market assessment for a global near-real-time deforestation warning service from satellite data, based on the research results from a previous NERC CORSAR grant.


    Original article

  • 10 May 2016 8:06 AM | AARSE Admin (Administrator)

    Source: AFK Insider

    With the help of agricultural drones, Africa can leapfrog into the quickly advancing area of precision agriculture — just as African mobile companies bypassed traditional fixed line infrastructure to create an innovative mobile finance system, says Quan Le.

    Le is managing director of GMX Agri, an Africa-focused agriculture adviser, developer and operator that recently launched a drone-based farming application service.

    There’s limited access to roads, electricity and clean water in a sparsely populated area about 275 miles from Nigeria’s capital, Abuja — but the land is ideal for growing rice.

    Local livelihoods are based on small-scale agriculture — sorghum, rice and beans during the rainy season, and tomatoes during the dry season using pump-fed irrigation.

    There, about 75 kilometers (47 miles) from the town New Bussa, a 3,000-hectare, irrigated rice farm is being planned on land that was acquired in a long term lease from the local government’s irrigation authority, ICTUpdate reported.

    London based GMX Consultancy traveled to Nigeria to survey and map 7,500 hectares in preparation for the irrigation infrastructure for the rice fields.

    They brought along a fixed-wing drone imported from the U.S. A manned aircraft could have done the job, but it would have cost a lot more, Le said.

    During a 55-minute flight, the drone took overlapping photos of nearly 300 hectares of the Nigerian land. Able to fly for four hours a day, the drone allowed the GMX team to map about 1,000 hectares a day. That is fast, especially if there’s harsh terrain and high temperatures to make working conditions challenging.

    It would have taken a professional surveyor working on foot about 20 days to cover the same area, said Le, managing director of GMX Agri, in a guest column in ICTupdate. An Africa-focused agriculture adviser, developer and operator, GMX recently launched growmoreX, a drone-based farming application service. The company collaborates with drone operators in Africa.

    The local emir, the village chief and a military airport located about 100 kilometers from the project site signed off on plans to use a drone. Local authorities welcomed the new technology, Le said. There was only one condition: the emir insisted on a flyover of his village so residents could see the drone and look at the photos it took.

    The village flyover had an unexpected result. For the first time the team could establish how many houses are in the village, enabling researchers to better estimate the size of the population. This is important because the research team is planning to hire local labor to build and operate the rice farm, Le said.

    Using the drone, researchers needed to create a map at a scale that would help inform the best layout of the paddy fields, irrigation and drainage systems.

    Water is the deciding factor in Africa’s rice self-sufficiency, Le said. Most African rice cultivation is rain-fed and lack of irrigation infrastructure is a major obstacle to increase rice production on the continent. Most of the existing systems are poorly designed, built, and maintained.


    Based on limited information from previous site visits, the GMX team was expecting to lay out the rice fields as large, rectangular basins. Large earth-moving and farming machinery would be needed to build and cultivate those basins. Paddy fields for rice cultivation need careful water management — water levels impact weed and nutrient distribution. This meant that for every 100 meters, half a meter of soil at the top of the field would have to be removed to raise its lower end during the leveling process.

    The drone survey proved the hypothesis wrong. Although parts of the project site were flat, most of the terrain was undulating landscape.

    Researchers had to radically change their design away from large rectangular basins and towards long, narrow fields that would follow the terrain. This change meant that a very different irrigation system design was necessary.

    By using data from drone technology, agricultural planners can now more easily avoid incorrect infrastructural planning, Le said. This information also makes it easier to buy the right machinery and avoid unnecessary large upfront investments that can break a project if they are improperly planned.

    Drone technology can potentially accelerate planning, design and construction of Africa’s irrigation infrastructure, according to Le. This project showed it can provide agriculturists with a cost-effective method of irrigation infrastructure planning.

    After the farm planning stage, drones could be useful for farmers to estimate more accurately how much fertilizer and planting materials they will need during the growing season. Once crops have been planted, drones equipped with special sensors can monitor their growth.

    Original article

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