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SPC advances drone use during disaster assessment in Vanuatu

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A specialised team from the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) has successfully completed its contribution to the Cyclone Pam damage assessment in Vanuatu, using unmanned aerial vehicles or drones.

The technical assessment team was deployed to assist with the Vanuatu Government’s damage assessment in April, tasked with determining damage to infrastructure and buildings, coastal inundation and three-dimensional shoreline change.

The team from SPC’s Geoscience Division included one expert flown in from Germany with a copter drone (which flies using eight rotating blades), financed by the German Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) with assistance from GIZ.

Using SPC’s own fixed-wing drone and the copter drone, the team was able to employ the latest techniques to conduct mapping surveys of affected areas, including 10 villages in north-east Efate and seven villages and settlements in south-east Tanna. Having returned to Suva in May, the team has since been analysing the data and sharing it progressively with the Vanuatu Government and other partners involved in the post-disaster assessment.

“Overall, the mission went well as we collected a range of information not only important for the Post Disaster Needs Assessment directed by the Vanuatu Government, but also for medium and longer term coastal management initiatives,” the SPC Team Leader of the mission, Herve Damlamian, said.

“Using two drones, we were able to collect high resolution topography data within the coastal zone and compare it with previous data gathered before the cyclone. This comparison is providing great insights into how the beach responds to large waves produced by cyclones.

“The use of drone technology in post-disaster settings is still relatively new.  We need to capitalize on the lessons learnt from this survey so that the deployment of drones to assess disaster-related damage can increasingly contribute to quick impact assessments, particularly in remote areas.

To view cloud points generated from SPC’s drone survey in Vanuatu, please see http://gsd.spc.int/pointcloud/ .  (Note a viewer other than Internet Explorer is required).

The use of two drones complemented the damage assessment carried out by SPC with satellite image data from Digital Globe and enabled surveys of areas for which no cloud-free space born image data were available. The SPC team also was equipped with survey-grade GPS employed for ground control points in centimetre precision, which is important for calibrating data collected from the drones.
Mr Damlamian explained that the fixed-wing drone can cover large areas within a short period of time, whereas the copter drone can be deployed faster and requires minimal clearance area for take-off and landing.  The copter is also capable of viewing objects from different view angles which potentially provides better information.

“Collision risk was greatly minimized by the professionalism and hard work of the air traffic controllers at the Port Vila Airport,” Mr Damlamian added.
The SPC team consisted of Mereoni Ketewai, Amrit Raj, Zulfikar Begg, Teja Kattenborn (from Germany) and Mr Damlamian.

Category five Cyclone Pam struck Vanuatu in March this year with devastating force, and also impacted Tuvalu and Kiribati. For more on SPC’s support, visit: http://www.spc.int/cyclone-pam-response/ .

This week in Port Vila the Government of Vanuatu, through its National Disaster Management office, is reviewing its disaster response arrangements at a lessons learned workshop, with involvement from SPC, civil society organisations, faith-based groups, non-governmental organisations, the European Union, United Nations agencies, regional organisations and the private sector.


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Last Updated on Monday, 29 June 2015 13:25  


Thursday 27 November 2014, Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) Suva, Fiji - The Pacific region continues to face development issues and technology of all kinds is assisting many areas of decision making, wealth generation and job creation. This was the focus of opening remarks delivered by Professor Michael Petterson, Director of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community’s (SPC) Applied Geoscience and Technology Division (AGTD) at the Geographic Information System and Remote Sensing (GIS & RS) conference.

The GIS & RS conference opened on Tuesday, 25th November at the University of the South Pacific, Suva, Fiji with the theme “Empowering Pacific Communities through Improved Geospatial Data”, and where approximately 280 participants were in attendance with representatives from countries and agencies from the Pacific and beyond.

‘Although we have some way to go because of limited capacity and resources, organisations like SPC have made a solid start in developing modern databases, applying new technologies, including Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, multivariate satellite spectra and bathymetric instruments. These technologies allow for rapid coverage of land and lagoon, enabling experts to determine land use, forestry cover, areas of mineralisation, sites for geothermal energy and to assist with planning decisions,’ Petterson described.