Background Information


It is a good time to use drones as a tool and additional useful equipment in project implementation. The market of drone use is exploding. Mainly in the field as "toy drones" but increasingly also in the professional field. In Mexico there is currently still a chance to try to "democratize" this technology. Under democratize we understand that technology is economically affordable and that the greatest number of users can apply it. Both things are interrelated. There are many other reasons that we want to examine in more details below.


Remote sensing data (satellite data, aerial photography) are indispensable information in protecting the environment in general and in particular for planning of agricultural and forestry activities, water management (basins) and regional planning at community level. We are working in Mexico with satellite imagery and aerial photography for more than 25 years. In the last 10 years spatial visualization has exploded and became commonplace. Google Maps, Google Earth and Open Street Map is installed on almost any Smartphone and can be viewed from anywhere with Internet access. The same applies to services associated with location through GPS.


The services described above are not enough for professional use. But also in the professional field the use of spatial data development did not stop. Satellite imagery for the investigation of ecosystems is now much more accessible than 10 years before. Similarly, the number of users is "exploding". Geographic Information Systems (GIS) have become a common good and is not only available for a small esoteric circle. The access to individual software has expanded enormously and has experienced rapid development in the area though open source. This is basically very promising, but it also brings some challenges. Today, almost anyone can download a satellite image from the Internet and processed it using GIS software. Proper treatment of satellite images is complex and requires experience. Today, much more information is generated as before but quite often with very poor quality due to lack of experience and expertise.


Professional processing of remote sensing data remains to be complex. In the last decade, demand for satellite images and high resolution aerial photographs has increased. These high resolution images are now widely available, but usually prohibitive in price or not accessible at the required time. In Mexico some state and academic institutions have access to these high resolution photos but the access is extremely difficult because of monopolistic policies of those institutions. This in contrast with the opening to access to spatial data worldwide. Now we face the fact that, first, all images and data files from NASA are freely available including networks of users to exchange data. On the other hand, private companies sell satellite images, which have a higher optical density of information. The best example are the SPOT satellites of the French Space Agency CNES which even Google Earth gets its images. The CNES sells its photos through the company Astrium, which in turn is a subsidiary of Airbus. The prices of this material are very high. This means that users or groups with few financial resources are excluded to access good quality images with high resolution. This is a very unpleasant situation and drones could counteract this situation.