From regulatory hurdles, communication issues, extreme weather, to community acceptance; challenges are in all parts of the world. However, aerial imagery and mapping can provide stunning benefits to remote populations. Hyun-June Choi, CEO of Altohelix, a leading Canadian drone solutions consultancy firm, worked with the Kenyan Red Cross to develop short term goals at the Pix4D User Conference. Some goals consist of crop monitoring for food security, aerial video and photography for communications, and PR efforts.

Devastating floods and rains are common in Kenya due to extreme weather cycles. “They have a constant cycle of floods and drought – and the cycles are getting worse,” says Choi. Thus,the Kenyan government is in immediate and critical need for aerial data to resettle some communities who get flooded every year.

Altohelix and Red Cross map Kenyan villages

Altohelix drones get the green flag from KCAA

Altohelix’s first mission was mapping areas for appropriate construction and ensure that they are out of the flood plain. “The first thing we had to do was to overcome regulations,” says Choi. “Kenya does not allow any civilian drone operations. The Kenyan Civil Aviation Authority (KCAA) is still drafting the drone regulations for the country, and Kenyan Defense Forces (KDF) are the only ones officially allowed to fly.” All the permissions required from the Kenyan government and KDF were granted.
Altohelix conducted 5 days of ground school and 5 days of flight training. The cheapest, most available and most practical tool for the job, Mavic 2 Pro drone was used. “No cell phone, no electricity, no wi-fi, no paved roads,” says Choi. “It was challenging. ”

A digital surface model (DSM) was created using imagery from the Mavic 2 Pro and Pix4D for processing to ensure that the area was out of flood and safe for construction.“The project showed the full extent of the flood damage and the changing landscape,” says Choi. “With a single flood, the entire shape of the river bed changed.” It’s a model that simply couldn’t be created with satellite imagery, Choi points out: “Satellite data resolution is just too low.”

5,715 new shelters were thus created to replace the ones destroyed by the flood.
“We’ll execute more operations,” says Choi. “We’ll purchase Pix4Dreact [real time 2D mapping], Pix4Dmapper, a Wingtra One [fixed wing drone] and sensors, and we’ll make improvements to the SOPs [standard operating procedures.]”According to the Kenyan team, they will purchase more equipment and expand further.