UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) or popularly known as drones, are air crafts that are operated remotely (see figure 1). In the past decade, drones have had an increase in their use. Drones have been used by civilians in a number of application areas like filming and photography, inspection and maintenance of utilities, mapping and surveying, precision agriculture, surveillance and monitoring, oil and gas etc. The use of drones is increasing day by day and this in turn creates job opportunities for the youth.
At Regional Centre for Mapping of Resources and Development (RCMRD), training courses are offered in various fields ranging from Land Surveying to Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing. These courses apply the use of modern equipment for data collection to acquire information about the earth. Among the modern equipment used are drones. Here, the drone is fitted with a camera and used to acquire high resolution images while flying above the ground. The images are then stitched together using state-of-the-art software to generate photogrammetric products such DSMs, DEMs, orthomosaics (see figure 2), contours etc. These products are georeferenced and can be used to accurately measure distances, areas and even volumes.
Students with the knowledge of operating and acquiring spatial data using drones, have a competitive advantage in the geospatial industry because the skills they have can be used by civil engineers, architects, agronomists, environmentalists, miners etc. Moreover, students with entrepreneurial skills have the option of starting their own business in the use of drone. They can become service providers in the drone industry. The market is new and is currently not saturated. The services can be offered to both the public and private sectors. For instance, drone mapping services can be offered to civil engineers who require topographical maps for proposed construction sites. These maps are beneficial in design work. Drone acquired imagery can be used to generate such maps, accurately and timely.
In the near future, drone use in precision agriculture is expected to rise. According to USAID, agriculture accounts for 33% of Kenya's gross domestic product (GDP). Despite continuous population growth, agricultural productivity has stagnated in recent years. Only 20% of Kenyan land is suitable for farming and that land is not utilized efficiently. The use of drones in agriculture will make agriculture more attractive to the youth. It will also assist farmers to use less inputs and maximize their yields. Students will be exposed to how drones can be used in agriculture and this skill will be an added advantage for them in the job market.
In conclusion, students willing to enroll for courses at RCMRD, are highly encouraged to do so because the skill they will be able to acquire will expose them to modern trends that will enable them to contribute to the development of the nation.