In 2014, a team from Drone Adventures participated in a cartography mission in Lima, Peru. The goal of this mission was to demonstrate that civilian drones are powerful tools for understanding and guiding the development of a city. We also saw that drones together with other modern technology empower local people to handle the problems and challenges of their community by themselves.

Alexandre Habersaat and I (Emanuele Lubrano) teamed up with a group of researchers from the University College of London (Prof. Adriana Allen, Rita Lambert, Monica Bernal and Flora Roumpani) in this adventure that brought us to two different suburbs of Lima, having two different problems:

José Carlos Mariátegui: This informal settlement is expanding on the steep slopes in the outskirts of Lima. In the absence of affordable housing and national housing policies, the occupation of the slopes is the only viable option for the vast masses of the urban poor, which are exposed to high levels of physical risk and water injustice. The occupation of such ‘vertical’ areas threaten the sustainability of the city as they coincide with the ‘Lomas Costeras’, an essential ecological infrastructure for recharging the aquifers that guarantee water for Lima and regulate the effects of climate variability. 3D mapping would not only capture the difficult terrain that has to be negotiated by the inhabitants but the practices that make these slopes habitable. It can be a means to open up dialogue between the inhabitants and the institutions that have various uncoordinated programs and projects in this area. High-precision topographical maps can also enable the integrated planning of such areas and support the preservation and management of the ‘protected’ ecological infrastructure for the functioning of the city.

Barrios Altos: This suburb is located in the historic centre of Lima in an area declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is characterised by overcrowded conditions and lack of basic services. Due to its strategic location, it has high land value; however, its buildings are left to deteriorate. The lack of attention for its rehabilitation, together with the illegal change of use from housing into storage, which is occurring at a fast pace, can be understood as a means to evict many of vulnerable inhabitants living on high value land. The process that converts many of the buildings into storage occurs through a retention of the facades while gutting the interiors for storing the containers originating mainly from overseas. 3D mapping would capturing the process of slow eviction and make visible the changes in the urban form behind the retained facades. It would seek to open up dialogue between the various stakeholders, advancing a more inclusive and socially just understanding of urban renovation.

During one week of mapping, we performed several drone flights and we gathered many high-resolution pictures from the sky. After a few hours of data processing, we were able to give to our partners two  high-resolution orthomosaics covering both of the area of interest.

Once the aerial pictures are printed, the next step is involving the local community in order to “populate” such photos with useful information. This was done either by asking the inhabitants what they know about the area, or by using smartphones in order to geotag information directly on the territory.

Involving the local community is a powerful way to give them responsibility for the development of their own city. Showing them an up-to-date map allows them to decide what information to gather that is actually relevant to their community.

Check the aerial images of the two areas directly here on Mapbox:

Last but not least, two cool 3D videos of the areas:

Thanks for reading!

Emanuele for Drone Adventures