Unmanned aerial vehicles or drones are now being used in the Philippines as a tool to improve land management - a move that would help secure land mapping and titling - a couple of challenges that curtail the country from inclusive growth.

Only an estimated half of the 24 million land parcels that exist in the country having formal land titles. While it is common in developing countries to live on a plot of land without acquiring legal ownership, the Philippines' new administration's 10 - point economic agenda intends to change that, and lists land management as one of the top items to secure security of land tenure to encourage greater investment in the region.

DroneMappingPhilippines1-1080x608 Figure 1: Only an estimated half of the 24 million land parcels that exist in the country having formal land titles. (Image source: The Asia Foundation Org)

In order to accelerate land titling in the region, The Asia Foundation is partnering with the Foundation for Economic Freedom and Omidyar Network on a new initiative – the Technology for Property Rights Project – to introduce innovative tools like drones to make it easier and faster to conduct subdivision surveys.

Local drone surveying partners, Micro Aerial Projects L.L.C. and SkyEye Inc., the Municipality of Cordova and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) together with non-profit organisation the Asia Foundation Org have partnered up to conduct a pilot study in Cordova, Cebu to test how drones can be effectively utilised in surveying land for mapping and titling.

The process of conducting a drone survey entails the drone to fly over the area of land in crisscross patterns as it records images of the land it hovers over, creating an aerial map. Before the drone flies out to survey the field, special control points- visible in the aerial images recorded by the drone, are placed on the ground that are linked to the DENR's grid system. This enables the drone survey team to record and print hi-resolution maps that will then be reviewed by community members to consequently identify plots of land and resolve any disputes. The drone-mapping method enables the survey team to map as much as 40 hectares in one day.

To be accepted as a survey tool in the Philippines, aerial maps from a drone survey must pass the government’s accuracy standards. The high-resolution maps produced through the pilot study in Cordova were 95% as accurate as the results from traditional field measurements, with an average horizontal difference of just 5.2 cm.

Watch the video of the survey drones in action: