Drone to assess climate change impact on crops, bares official

THE DEPARTMENT of Agriculture has acquired a drone that it can assess in real time the situation of crops in the region, including the effects of natural phenomena like El Niño and calamities like typhoons and floods.

Roy Jose Pascua, DA regional field officer, said in an interview yesterday the drone costs around P270,000 and could be deployed as early as July or August.

Pascua said the unit is now in the evaluation phase as personnel of the agency are undergoing training to pilot the device.

The idea of using drones came from the agency’s experience with calamities like Typhoon Pablo in 2012 and Sendong in 2011, where the DA would rely from estimates made by local goverent units regarding the actual extent of damage to crops.

In an earlier interview, DA information technology chief Pamela Sosa said the item could be used within the year.

DA secretary Proseso Alcala said he was supportive of the idea.

Alcala said the DA was considering the use of drones since the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and other government agencies have used the device with a certain degree of success.

Sosa said the idea came from Regional Director Remelyn Recoter after the devastation wrought by Typhoon Pablo, which killed 1,067 in 2012 and caused millions of pesos in agricultural and infrastructure damage.

At the moment, the agency uses geotagging technology to map its projects.

The process includes the identification of the project’s location, as well as the time and date that the photograph is taken.

However, the technology is not as reliable in disaster assessments, as this does not provide a real-time aerial assessment of the damaged farms.

During disasters, LGUs report to the DA its assessment of damage, based on the number of hectares within the barangay or municipality.

Sosa emphasized the drone would only be used in post-disaster assessment.

Pascua said the drone would be under the dirdct supervision of his division.

According to the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, Typhoon Pablo caused a damage of P26.5 billion to agriculture, P36.9 billion to properties, and P7.6 billion to infrastructure.

The DA was among the guests at yesterday’s luncheon press conference at the Philippine Information Agency, to discuss preparations in time for July’s celebration of the Disaster Preparedness Month.

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