Ben Orcan / August 13, 2020

Democratising land ownership with drone-captured data and AI

Ben Orcan By Ben Orcan

SOARIZON by Thales and IMGeospatial recently joined forces in an open innovation project to develop a service to aid in the creation of land cadastre with of drone-captured data and AI. 

A land cadastre is an official register showing formal ownership and boundaries of land in a country. Each country is divided up into cadastral parcels, of which there are around six billion in the world.

In developing countries or regions many of these cadastral parcels remain unregistered or informally registered. This is particularly true when it comes to land owned by women. In many parts of the world women simply do not have rights or access to legally claim land which is rightfully theirs.

This holds back both economic growth and gender equality within these nations, as the process of correcting land registration can be a long and costly process.

Many organisations around the world are working to address this, with the Stand for Her Land campaign launched by the World Bank and others in 2019, with ambitious aims over the next decade.


The project

In order to address this problem, we teamed up with IMGeospatial for a Proof of Concept of a new service which we believe could be deployed to speed up, de-risk and reduce the cost of first registration; the initial registration of land in countries where a land cadastre is being generated for the first time.

This project involved the collection of a vast amount of data by drone, which could then be fed through IMGeospatial’s intelligent analytics software to detect land boundaries and other geographical features.

We chose the region of Shesh, Albania because it is an area which has recently undergone a land registration project, and therefore gave us a representative environment, and the ability to compare the efficiency of the new data gathering approach with traditional methods.

Albania team
The drone operations team in  Shesh, Albania

A team consisting of representatives from SOARIZON by Thales, IMGeospatial and Ground Level Up travelled to Albania to collect and process the required data. 

Flying drones over the Shesh region, we collected a series of still images from which we created a 2D Orthomosaic. Shesh is a mountainous region which contains a wide variety of different terrains, buildings and access roads so it proved the ideal testing ground.


Once the data was collected and a 2D Orthomosaic created, IMGeospatial then enhanced the raw data with a layer of intelligent geo-mapping. The intelligent algorithm analyses the terrain to identify geographical features in the landscape as well as buildings, roads, forested and cultivated land. The software also applies logic to suggest the extent of individual land boundaries. 

Alexis Smith, CEO of IMGeospatial said of the joint project:

"IMGeospatial’s ALpaCa (Automatic Land parcel Cadastre) product, in conjunction with SOARIZON by Thales, will enable the part-automation of land parcel ownership delineation. 
This will lead to clarity and protection of property rights, which empowers landowners to become economically stable. It will also incentivise them to investment in their own land; to make it more productive and, for the first time, be able to consider longer term yields without fear of their investment not coming to fruition due to land grabs or other related difficulties, thus democratising land ownership.”

This enhanced data set can provide landowners and local authorities with a baseline plan, with a high degree of accuracy, from which to further define and negotiate land ownership rights.

Smith continued: “Automating a small part of this system will also allow for land rights to become more easily transferable, opening up the sale and rental markets, which can be essential enablers for economic stability in old age, as well as protection and empowerment of women, who currently just own approximately 20 percent of land worldwide. This also increases the appeal of localities for external investment and development.”

The future of automated land services

Collecting data for land survey and analysis in this way has three key benefits over traditional methods:

Time: Drones can survey a large area of land far more quickly than humans on the ground using traditional methods. Not only does this save a huge amount of time, but it also means that the service can be delivered in a flexible way, and that land can be surveyed again easily if changes are made.

Cost: As drones can cover a large area quickly, this technology has the potential to open up access to economic growth more quickly and cost-effectively than traditional methods.

Safety: Perhaps most importantly, the use of drones has considerable safety advantages over traditional data collection models, particularly where unstable or unsafe terrain or geopolitical factors are involved.

We are continuing to develop this service to help governments, and those managing land administration, democratise the process of registering land ownership, enabling communities to benefit from wider access to high quality mapping, with greater flexibility and lower cost. SOARIZON by Thales provides the ability to scale this type of service with the efficiencies inherent in the use of our digital platform, network of trusted operators, client portal and global reach.

This type of project not only provides a valuable and viable service, but also brings us closer to understanding some of the world's biggest issues in an accessible and data-driven way. As well as its use for Land Cadastre creation, these technologies can also be used to better understand other global issues such as cachment management, water and leakage analysis or monitoring climate change.

Work with us

We are keen to work with governments, and those managing land administration to further develop and deploy this world class service. If you would like to discuss this or other use cases for this set of technologies, please get in touch.

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