Drones to Help Farmers in Philippines to Prepare for Disasters

By Reuters 26 April 2016

LONDON — The Philippines has started to deploy drones to find out where farmland is most at risk from natural disasters and quickly assess damage after they strike, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said on Monday.

Assessment of vulnerable farmland can minimize the negative impacts of climate change, floods and typhoons and avoid the need to build the agriculture sector back from scratch after a disaster, FAO said.

The Philippines is one of the countries most at risk from natural disasters such as earthquakes, typhoons, droughts and floods, which have a heavy impact on farming and access to food.

Under the pilot project funded by the Philippines government and FAO, two unmanned drones have already been sent to provinces affected by the El Niño weather pattern, the FAO said.

The drones are capable of covering up to 600 hectares (1,500 acres) of land per day and can generate data and detailed maps from aerial photographs, including an indicator that can be used to analyze vegetation and plant health.

Imagery generated from drone flights can also reveal where irrigation or storage facilities can be best sited to serve local farmers, FAO said.

“It is efficient, it saves time and we will be using a reliable source of data so that we can plan and provide appropriate interventions and responses for our farmers in times of disasters,” Christopher Morales, director of field operations for the Department of Agriculture, said in a statement.

Typhoon Haiyan, which hit the Philippines in 2013, killed more than 6,000 people and destroyed 600,000 hectares of farmland, inflicting more than US$700 million damage to the agriculture sector, FAO said.