Pacific: UAV4Resilience - Utilizing Unmanned Aerial Vehicles for Disaster Assessments in the Pacific Islands

Comparison of an image taken during the field tests in Tonga (top) against the satellite image of the same building (bottom). Photo credit: World Bank

Context and Objectives

The UAV4Resilience – Utilizing Unmanned Aerial Vehicles for Disaster Assessments in the Pacific Islands project aimed to develop the capacity and readiness of Fiji and Tonga in deploying Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) for disaster and climate risk assessments and rapid identification of damage to the physical environment in post-disaster situations. 

Main Activities and results

The activities of the project were as follows:

  • Field testing of UAVs to derive best practices, and turning lessons learned on the use of UAVs into a document with best practices on the use of UAVs as well as a roadmap to guide the implementation of a UAV survey;
  • Adding functionality to the existing PacDID (Pacific Drone Imagery Dashboard) platform, by making a version of PacDID that works offline. In this way, images can be stored on a computer whilst in the field;
  • Providing trainings for government officials on the ability to fly UAVs, in priority for officials from Tonga and Fiji, but possibly also officials from other pacific island countries. The trainings provide government officials with the skills and know-how on how to safely and efficiently operate UAVs as well as on the regulatory framework regarding flying in a regulated airspace;
  • Developing capacity on the use and application of the outputs from the UAV survey for rapid impact assessments. Through technical workshops, participants learn about translating damage components seen in the UAV images into pre-defined “damage levels” per building, which can then be translated into the economic impact to for example the housing sector. 
  • Identifying gaps to improve and modernize the geodetic system to improve the UAV operations and positional accuracy of the outputs. 

UAVs were tested, and the lessons learned were turned into a best-practices document on the use of UAVs in the Pacific, setting out for example lessons learned on the processing of very large datasets. As part of the field testing of UAVs, the main island of Tonga, Tongatapu, was assessed with UAVs in October 2017. These activities led to an ACP-EU NDRR follow up project under Window 3, which used UAVs to assess in February 2018 the damage that Tropical Cyclone Gita caused to Tonga. Comparing the images before and after the disaster informed the development of a Recovery Framework for Tonga and enabled to create a post-disaster baseline map that could be incrementally updated throughout the recovery and reconstruction phases.

The UAV4Resilience project helped raise the awareness with the Tonga Civil Aviation Authority (CCA) that the regulatory environment surrounding the use of UAVs in the Pacific is to be strengthened. The UAV4Resilience project therefore worked with the World Bank Aviation Unit in contributing to this agenda throughout the Pacific, leveraging the existing World Bank investment project Pacific Aviation Safety Office Reform. 

In total four hands-on training sessions have been delivered, two each in the two countries. In the Solomon Islands, the national disaster management office has incorporated the use of drones as part of their operational tools.

In addition, a guidance note was published to document the best uses of drones in collecting geospatial data in Pacific Island States (see link below).

Partnerships and Coordination

The team kept the Tonga National Disaster Management Office (NDMO) informed of the progress and reflected their needs in the project implementation and design.

The Pacific Community (SPC), the regional partner were kept informed of the progress, and discussions were held with SPC on sensors to be tested. 

A close collaboration with the Tonga CCA was established, as well as with the regional aviation regulatory organization Pacific Aviation Safety Office (PASO).

Useful Links

The UAV images of Tonga are available at OpenAerialMap.

A Results in Resilience feature story is available here.

Information on the follow-up ACP-EU NDRR project can be found here.

A guidance note was published to document the best uses of drones in collecting geospatial data in Pacific Island States and can be found here.

  • Pacific
Priority area
  • Risk identification and assessment
Window of Action
  • Window 1
Amount approved
  • $740,000
  • $0
  • 01/2017 - 07/2020