Sri Lanka’s drone pioneers

quadrocopter flight from digital camera with 3-axis stabilization gimbal  over the sea

Salman Siddiqui

The International Water Management Institute in Sri Lanka has begun to experiment with drone technology to support a wide range of studies like crop monitoring, disaster mitigation and disease prevention.

In recent months, the Colombo based International Water Management Institute (IWMI) has begun to use unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) – also known as drones – to monitor rice crops in and around the water scarce area of Anuradhapura. The institute is testing the data-collecting capabilities of UAVs for various purposes. For example, RGB (red, green, blue) colour and near-infrared (NIR) sensors were used to capture images over the paddy fields. These technologies have the potential to help farmers detect fields that are under stress and to help them identify low-laying areas prone to pooling.

IWMI’s drone is also regularly used in partnership with local authorities. In December 2015, the Survey Department of Sri Lanka was developing a disaster mitigation plan for Badulla, the capital city of Uva Province. The Survey Department needed a high-resolution Digital Elevation Model (DEM) of the town for the plan, and asked IWMI to use its drone to capture the required aerial imagery.

Using conventional techniques, it might have taken over a year to survey the town. However, the drone used by the IWMI team was able to survey the entire 10 square kilometres area in just three days, by carrying out fourteen UAV flights and shooting 4,600 high-resolution images, with an average spatial resolution of four centimetres.

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