The project will last one year (with possible extension over time upon funding availability) and, following mainly aims oriented to education and applied research, is based on both technology transfer aspects and on capacity building approach, and it is composed of the following phases: testing, training, data acquisition and processing, then sharing and eventually final analysis of the data.
The first part of the test activities (Q1 and Q2) will be focused on data acquisition on a limited area of the corridor, using the up-to-date best available UAV technologies, with the aim to define standards for extending the mapping operations to the whole corridor. Apart for the acquisition phase, conducting surveys on a limited portion of the territory will provide enough data for running test on the data processing aspect, with the aim of defining standards and setting best-practices for replicate the survey to cover the whole corridor, with simple operations that can be carried out also by non-specialist surveyors (local people/students). On the second part of the project timeline (Q3 and Q4) the test activities will focus on how to run analysis and validation on the processed data. This step of the project will consider other international initiatives, in order to establish a basic starting know-how for benefit of previously undertaken similar projects.
Technical training of local operators with a Capacity Building Approach, using in-situ education activities, recording lessons and remote classes sessions, in order to extend the mapping operation to the whole corridor. The educational curriculum will follow codified and standardized procedures previously defined on the training phase, both for the data acquisition, processing, storage and management. The target for the educational phase will be students, researchers and teachers of local universities and other institutions and organizations, like companies that are currently working on the corridor to gather UAV imagery data. The educational part of this project is to transfer knowledge to people that, under our supervision (locally or remotely) can conduct survey operation and deal with archiving a big amount of data on local and online repositories in the most simple and standardized way. This will involve not only local people, but also local and international companies, as the employed UAV platforms will need to be maintained and repaired. Therefore, the allocated funds will also serve as seed investment to attract local and international companies or dealers who wants to contribute to our project (by loans or donations of hardware and software). The goal of the training part is to ensure that the local partners will have, at the end of the training phase, the possibility to continue this project without the help of external specialist coming from outside the country. The main educational curriculum will cover aspects related to the UAV data acquisition, Georeferencing strategies using GNSS data, Photogrammetric data processing and large data management, data storage, and visualization using GIS software and tools. This step of the project will always consider the Humanitarian UAV Code of Conduct, and other inherent regulations and ethical dispositions.
This phase concerns the large-scale data acquisition (drone mapping) mission, where the whole territory of the corridor will be clustered and covered with the aim of gathering consistent aerial data. The locals partners will be expected to run organized and automated drone mapping missions in order to acquire large amounts of aerial data, suitable for post-processing with a photogrammetry software which will then be used for further analysis for various multiple applications, such as flood modelling, mosquito breeding site identification, watershed monitoring, and similar, as stated in the following phases 5 (Process) and 6 (Analyze). The acquisition phase will constitute the practical module of the training phase, in which it will be possible to apply what previously learned. Flights will be designed according to the photogrammetric principle (GSD, overlap and sidelap will be considered). Apart from the employed Drone platforms (with or without PPK or RTK technologies), before the image acquisition and in order to georeference, guarantee and validate an opportune metric accuracy of the achieved products, some GNSS measurements of specific target/markers placed on the ground will be acquired, and will be used as Ground Control Points (GCPs) or Check Points (CPs) in the following photogrammetric processes.
Data sharing will be conducted both for raw data (single images and GCPs/CPs information) and final results (Orthoimages, DSM and 3D models) under the use of open licenses and dedicated web platforms (for example OpenAerialMap), with the aim of making accessible the gathered data to all the potential users, the ISPRS community, the academic and research world, Non-Governative Organizations, International Organizations, Funders and local authorities. All the data will be shared under a Creative Commons – Attribution 4.0 International (CC by 4.0) license. In this phase the partners are expected to apply strategies and procedures inherent to the management of big datasets (covered during the phase 2 – Train). In this part the aim of the project is to involve the international community of ISPRS for processing data in chunks to cut off the cost of data processing, and to provide to the scientific community a large dataset to be used for several purposes oriented to education and research activities.
Processing of the data will happen in a crowd-sourced basis; the data that will be shared and stored through the Amazon web services, placed on a dedicated on-line platform, will be accessible for free (under request) by academia, international organizations, donors, and local Malawian authorities. The local partners are in fact not expected to fully process the data, as different applications will require different processing workflows by 3rd parties. For this reason, it will be crucial to optimally upload the processed resources in online repositories, as soon as them will be ready to be shared. The photogrammetric processing will be performed in order to obtain traditional orthoimages and 3D products such us DSM (Digital Surface Models) and/or 3D meshes, in order to improve the understanding of the country.
The last part of the project will be focused on the management/analysis of the processed data, involving when relevant and when will be needed for specific analysis the ISPRS international scientific community. Analysis will cover several research aspects and will be used for different purposes: the realization of maps at big scale of crops (precision farming), monitoring of the mosquito’s reproduction sites, monitoring of rivers and body waters, generation of flooding/drought models, monitoring of deforestation processes, water point detection any other kind of analysis related to the infrastructures located on the territory (households, roads, schools, health facilities, markets, or any other crucial places that are essential for agriculture/emergency preparedness/nutrition/other). Data analysis will focus on any other parameters functional for agriculture applications, emergency response, and for the evaluation of urban regeneration/Reorganization scenarios. The data analysis would be done by multiple different entities that have scientific/research/developmental interests in collaborating in this project. In this part of the project, open source GIS instrument will be used for the management of the data.