Swescan AFRICA – 20 sites , 2 month and extreme conditions
To make a long story short
Swescan team are determined to use drones for good. The goal is to get a start with UN and aid projects. As a pilot project we had the opportunity to create accurate 3D data over 20 sites in Tanzania. Swescan educated and prepared a person for the job. Became the first company in Kenya to have a commercial drone permit and spent 2 months preparing to fly in extreme conditions.
Electricity is essential for a small village. To power anything from lamps to pumps or charge mobile phones to improve communication. REA (http://www.rea.go.tz/) ordered the job. Rural Energy Agency (REA) is an autonomous body under the Ministry of Energy and Minerals of the United Republic of Tanzania. Its main role is to promote and facilitate improved access to modern energy services in rural areas of Mainland Tanzania
- REA Vision: Transformation of rural livelihoods through provision of modern energy services.
- REA Mission: To promote and facilitate availability and access to modern energy services in rural Mainland Tanzania.
Not only was Swescan the first company to get a permit we also broke new ground by flying with a base station and Sensefly ebee with PPK/RTK technology in the wild without any connection to the grid. The customer demanded an accuracy of within 15 cm of all hard surfaces over huge areas +800 ha. This meant preparations and testing for 2 month.
The distance between the 20 sites all over Tanzania demanded a good car and stamina of the team.
Step survey areas with an altitude/height difference of 1000 m was a drone challenge. Starting from the top sometimes meant flying down to -500 m (negative alltitude) and then back again. The drone had to follow the ground at 300 m altitude. Has anyone done this before?
The team consisted of pilot, assistant, driver/carrier, military observant and a carrier. All but the pilot were locals with good understanding and knowledge about the challenges ahead. The team was field equipped with everything from tent to a petrol driven power plant. All maps and digital data was prepared and downloaded with backups before the mission launch. We knew it would be tough.
Worst possible weather
The rain came before the first test flights in Tanzania. Rain and constant rain for 13 days. Roads gone, bridges gone, mud and more mud. The first site was delayed by 13 days. To keep electronics dry and the car rolling was a challenge in itself. How do you find the way when there is no way…
Never expect things to work as planned when you are in the field. “Improvise, adapt, overcome” as someone said . The range of the datalink was to short and did not match the tests made at home. The team had to track long distances in tough terrain to get a new starting location. It was extremely tough on the team and sleeping under the sky became common. After 2 weeks of hardship the team solved the range problem.
Plane down, exhausted team
During a mission the plane fell out of the sky and was lost high on a mountain side. 3 days of search from a search party of 40 people resulted in a found plane but it was not in a condition to be repaired. A new plane was supplied by Sensefly (warranty) and Swescan personnel was to Africa with the new equipment to clear customs. The team lost more 14 days in the maneuver. After almost 2 months the team leader gave up with only one and a half mission left to fly. A new small team was sent from Sweden to fly the last 2 sites determined to finish the job.
Final payments did not arrive
Working with a semi-Swedish middle hand “Photomap Tanzania ltd ” we thought that the company would pay in full after the job was finished. Well. We learned the hard way not to deliver before getting payed in full. Photomap skimmed the last payment and destroyed any further cooperation.
We believe that REA had a good understanding about the hardships and we can see that the results are being used in the best way. We plan on working more with REA using a direct connection. Please download an example project via the attached pdf provided for public use by REA. At page 21-22 you can read about the data collection made by Swescan.
Data computing and delivery
The heavy data sets were computed and delivered to the costumer via the Swescan data portal. Ortohophotos, terrain models, point clouds and 3D visuals. The end customer was very happy with the data.
Satisfaction and learnings
Next time we know more about team configuration, tools and skill needed for a field tour of this magnitude. We are very happy to see that the data is used to plan the projects. REA has release info on some of the pre-studies based on out data. Eventually all the time spent and money lost will result in helping people. We just hope that we will get the chance to do this more often.
I would especially like to thank the team at #Sensefly for the sponsorship and swift support. Co-owner of Swescan, Johan, also did a great job completing the unfinished job.
Thanks REA for the opportunity to help.
/Fredrik Hansson and Johan Lindqvist, Swescan