Cutting-edge technologies — from drones to data collected by taxi drivers — are becoming key weapons in the global battle to improve land rights and fight poverty, experts said Monday.

Advances in earth observation, digital connectivity and computing power provide an array of information, from detailed topographical maps to transportation use, that was previously unimaginable, geospatial experts said at a World Bank Conference on Land and Poverty.

The information collected can be instrumental to helping establish property records and land titling systems in countries where there is no formal ownership or land-use documentation.

Drones help map Africa

Survey-mapping drones may look like toys but are powerful machines having a huge impact on land-use planning in Africa, said Edward Anderson, a senior World Bank disaster management expert.

High-quality, high-resolution images taken by drones in Zanzibar identified nearly 2,000 new buildings in one 12-month period alone, he said.

The mapping exercise, budgeted at $2 million in 2005, was completed at a tenth of the price by local university students operating the small, light, unmanned drones, Anderson said.

“Coastal zones are developing and urbanizing so quickly, waterside areas are being developed into hotels, residential properties,” he said.

“Until now, there was no way of quantifying this change and making comparisons,” Anderson said.


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Photo courtesy of VOA News (A prototype of France’s naval aerial drone, VSR 700, is displayed at Airbus Heliciopters factory in Marignane, France, March 3, 2017)