Piloting MicroMappers: Crowdsourcing the Analysis of UAV Imagery for Disaster Response

Cross-posted from MicroMappers

UAVs are increasingly used in humanitarian response. We have thus added a new Clicker to our MicroMappers collection. The purpose of the “Aerial Clicker” is to crowdsource the tagging of aerial imagery captured by UAVs in humanitarian settings. Trying out new technologies during major disasters can pose several challenges, however. So we’re teaming up with Drone Adventures, Kuzikus Wildlife Reserve, Polytechnic of Namibia, and l’École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) to try out our new Clicker using high-resolution aerial photographs of wild animals in Namibia.

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As part of their wildlife protection efforts, rangers at Kuzikus want to know how many animals (and what kinds) are roaming about their wildlife reserve. So Kuzikus partnered with Drone Adventures and EPFL’s Cooperation and Development Center (CODEV) and the Laboratory of Geographic Information Systems (LASIG) to launch the SAVMAP project, which stands for “Near real-time ultrahigh-resolution imaging from unmanned aerial vehicles for sustainable land management and biodiversity conservation in semi-arid savanna under regional and global change.” SAVMAP was co-funded by CODEV through LASIG. You can learn more about their UAV flights here.

Our partners are interested in experimenting with crowdsourcing to make sense of this aerial imagery and raise awareness about wildlife in Namibia. As colleagues at Kuzikus recently told us, “Rhino poaching continues to be a growing problem that threatens to extinguish some rhino species within a decade or two. Rhino monitoring is thus important for their protection. One problematic is to detect rhinos in large areas and/or dense bush areas. Using digital maps in combination with MicroMappers to trace aerial images of rhinos could greatly improve rhino monitoring efforts.”

So our pilot project serves two goals: 1) Trying out the new Aerial Clicker for future humanitarian deployments; 2) Assessing whether crowdsourcing can be used to correctly identify wild animals.

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Can you spot the zebras in the aerial imagery above? If so, you’re already a digital ranger! No worries, you won’t need to know that those are actually zebras, you’ll simply outline any animals you find (using your mouse) and click on “Add my drawings.” Yes, it’s that easy : )

We’ll be running our Wildlife Challenge from September 26th-28th. To sign up for this digital expedition to Namibia, simply join the MicroMappers list-serve here. We’ll be sure to share the results of the Challenge with all volunteers who participate and with our partners in Namibia. We’ll also be creating a wildlife map based on the results so our friends know where the animals have been spotted (by you!).

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Given that rhino poaching continues to be a growing problem in Namibia (and elsewhere), we will obviously not include the location of rhinos in our wildlife map. You’ll still be able to look for and trace rhinos (like those above) as well as other animals like ostriches, oryxes & giraffes, for example. Hint: shadows often reveal the presence of wild animals!

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Drone Adventures hopes to carry out a second mission in Namibia early next year. So if we’re successful in finding all the animals this time around, then we’ll have the opportunity to support the Kuzikus Reserve again in their future protection efforts. Either way, we’ll be better prepared for the next humanitarian disaster thanks to this pilot. MicroMappers is developed by QCRI and is a joint project with the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

Any questions or suggestions? Feel free to email me at patrick@iRevolution.net or add them in the comments section below. Thank you!

Namibia’s savanna classified: from drone imagery to Vegetation Base Maps

Timothée Produit of EPFL’s LASIG lab was part of our Namibian mission in May 2014. During the mission, Tim gave lectures both at the Polytechnic of Namibia as well as at the Gobabeb Research & Training Center on how to use the acquired drone imagery to classify terrain. Once all the imagery of the mission had been processed back home in Switzerland, Tim went on to use our data for classification purposes.

In this blog, Tim and his colleague Matthew Parkan show us how to use multi-spectral imagery acquired by the eBee and converted to NIR and RGB orthomosaics with Pix4Dmapper to create vegetation base maps.

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Tim giving a lecture at Gobabeb Research & Training Center on Vegetation Indexes

 

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Drones in Namibia: pictures, maps and videos

A couple months ago four members of Drone Adventures spent two weeks in the wild Namibian bush drone-mapping savanna, sand and rock for land and wildlife conservation.  You can read about our initial results in our first blog post.

As a picture speaks a thousand words, here’s a gallery of images from our flights at Kuzikus Wildlife Reserve and the Gobabeb Research and Training Center.

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