21 June 2016


 by Bianca Licup and Erwin Tolentino

Disaster Risk Reduction Management (DRRM) and drones are current buzzwords not just in geography, but also the popular media. The fourth Spatial Technologies in Advancing Research Techniques (S.T.A.R.T. 4) last May 3, 2016 entitled Airborne Platforms for Environmental Monitoring and DRRM didn’t fail the public’s demand. The program was hosted by the Geography Department and was organized by Ms. Ony Martinez together with the department’s Core Group and the Geography 190 class. S.T.A.R.T. is a project that provides opportunities for young researchers to discuss developments in the science and technology of spatial techniques and methodologies. It caters to different audiences across multiple disciplines and also further enhances the awareness of people with such techniques.

This year, S.T.A.R.T. 4 invited experts in the field of remote sensing and sustainable technologies. The first presenter was Engr. Rosalyn Sontillanosa, Information Systems Analyst for National Mapping and Resource Information Authority (NAMRIA). NAMRIA is the country’s central mapping agency and is responsible for making maps to transform the country into a geospatially-empowered Philippines. The second presenter was Mr. Matthew Cua, the Founder-CEO of SkyEye Inc. The company is a part of the Community of Practice of 58 organizations led by World Vision Philippines, Save the Children Philippines and other notable agencies. The company provides innovative technologies for property survey that is faster, better and cheaper. 

Engr. Santillanosa was eager to answer the questions
from the audience

The S.T.A.R.T. colloquium held at PH 204 was a good introduction about the different types of sensors and their benefits in various situations. Engr. Sontillanosa discussed the basics and applications of Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR). She also explained the difficulties and challenges NAMRIA is facing as well as the points it can improve on when it comes to the use of radar imagery. Radar images generated from satellites and aerial images taken by camera sensors mounted on an airplane are used in DRRM by relating climate, weather and calamities. She also noted other uses of SAR such as monitoring oil spill.

Mr. Cua explains how he and colleagues started Skyeye.
Mr. Cua on the other hand talked about the practical applications of using drones. He also identified the challenges of building their own drones because the Philippines has yet to set its own guidelines. Together with his colleagues, they have built drones from scratch, using light materials and customized cameras. He also mentioned that their drones work better than the ones from other countries because their drones are custom built for local conditions.  Mr. Cua stressed that helping out and identifying disasters isn’t about just helping out when there are a lot of people at risk, but also involving the lives lost due to illnesses and lack of access. Aside from these purposes, drones can facilitate the evaluation of public infrastructures such as roads and transportation facilities. 

The speakers together with the organizers and participants of START 4.

The overall takeaway from the colloquium was that people have to make the most out of their resources and utilize the knowledge given to them. We should also never forget that there are three major responsibilities after a disaster- build resilience, rehabilitate and improve on response. Technology is here to help us uphold these responsibilities. We should utilize them, especially in disaster mitigation, to lessen the casualties and damages of future disasters.

Erwin and Bianca are undergraduate students of Geography who were part of the organizers of START 4.