Drone technology and Digital real-time data collection helps Agriculture speed up damage assessment due to TC Cody

January 14, 2022

Picture: Principal Research Officer Dr Tekini Nakidakida (left) explains the Hon. Minister Dr Mahendra Reddy and PS Agriculture Vinesh Kumar on the Drone activity.

Drone technology was used for the first time yesterday by the Ministry of Agriculture to assist in the Initial Damage Assessments (IDA) currently conducted to gauge the extent of losses sustained during the recent floods caused by TC Cody.

Agriculture Permanent Secretary, Vinesh Kumar explained it was an exciting time for the Ministry to utilize modern technology for efficiency and accuracy purposes.

“It is the first time the Ministry is using drone technology to provide aerial coverage of the flood affected areas for the current IDA exercise. We started using the drone today in the Central Division, in Rewa, Tailevu, and Naitasiri before the drone will be move down to the West this weekend for the same purpose,” Kumar said.

“Using the drone will provide us with a clearer and wider view of the flood damages during TC Cody and it will help us match the data collated via the Digital data collection Toolbox that is used by our officers conducting the ground assessments, data collected is in real time, as well as the damage forecast done by our Economic Planning and Statistics Team in a shorter span of time. This will allow us to have a much better indication of the extent of damages and come up with solutions to assist our farmers get back on their feet,” he added.

He said the use of the Kobo Toolbox software was first used following TC’s Yasa and Ana in 2020 and early 2021 and actually sped up the IDA exercise by the officers.

In addition, the Permanent Secretary said almost 200 officers from the Ministry were currently engaged in the IDA exercise, which was coming to a conclusion to make way for the Detailed Damage Assessment (DDA) to follow if necessary.

“Prior to the digital data collection toolbox, we used to manually fill out forms with farmers to make the damage assessments. Those days are gone now, thanks to the use of handheld tablets and smart phones has significantly improved our work. The old method has become inconvenient, cumbersome, and unsustainable. Now, the officers are using tablets to quickly capture data which is synched to Headquarters and we are able to watch real time data come through quickly and as such we are able to complete field assessments faster and cover a lot of ground,” he said. 

“This data allows us to make informed decisions and we share this information to the National Disaster Management Office (NDMO) as well.”

The IDA exercise is an immediate response by the Ministry following any natural disaster. It is usually done when it is deemed safe to move around and is undertaken by the locality officers on the ground within the next three days. Depending on the extent of the damage, will determine the number of officers and resources to be deployed. The data collated is then used by the Ministry to design a quick rehab package to assist   the affected farmers to return to some degree of normalcy. 

The IDA exercise is expected to be completed by this weekend.