How do you map one of the largest countries in the world? One drone at a time, perhaps. That’s exactly what the Indian government is doing, with the Survey of India (SoI) using a fleet of drones to map the country in incredible detail.

One of the first areas being surveyed is the Ganges river basin, which is being mapped with an accuracy of 10 cm, according to Professor Ashutosh Sharma of India’s Department of Science & Technology.

“The basis for everything”

A fleet of 300 drones is being gathered to capture aerial footage, which will be combined with other data sources and then converted into highly detailed maps using artificial intelligence.

“Even today we don't have a digital map of India of sufficient accuracy,” Professor Sharma told the Times of India. “But this is [going to be] the basis for everything... whether we have to lay down train tracks, lay a road, put up a hospital ... or any kind of development and planning.”

What is the World Economic Forum doing about drones?

The World Economic Forum is partnering with governments and companies to create flexible regulations that allow drones to be manufactured and used in various ways to help society and the economy.

Drones can do many wonderful things, but their upsides are often overshadowed by concerns about privacy, collisions and other potential dangers. To make matters worse, government regulations have not been able to keep up with the speed of technological innovation.

In 2017 the World Economic Forum’s Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution teamed up with the Government of Rwanda to draft the world’s first framework for governing drones at scale. Using a performance-based approach that set minimum safety requirements instead of equipment specifications, this innovative regulatory framework gave drone manufacturers the flexibility to design and test different types of drones. These drones have delivered life-saving vaccines, conducted agricultural land surveys, inspected infrastructure and had many other socially beneficial uses in Rwanda.

Today, the Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution is working with governments and companies in Africa, Asia, Europe and North America to co-design and pilot agile policies that bring all the social and economic benefits of drone technology while minimizing its risks.

Read more here, and contact us if you're interested in getting involved with the Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution's pioneering work in the governance of emerging technologies.

The new maps will have a scale of 1:500, meaning 1 cm will represent 5 metres on the ground. Mapping remote towns and villages in this detail will give local authorities accurate data relating to land ownership. In some cases, it is believed this will enable citizens to have verified land-ownership claims leading to the issuance of property titles for the first time.

Between now and 2021, the Indian project – which also brings together data from multiple sources – will map 75% of the country. The initial focus areas will be those that are populated – regions that are mostly forest or desert, for example, may be excluded from the exercise.

 Drones are increasingly being used outside of the military for commercial, scientific, and agricultural purposes.
Image: Statista

Transformative effect

Highly detailed and digital maps can help countries and communities around the world to pinpoint problems, find solutions and protect their future.

They can provide crucial information to aid groups in disaster zones, such as during the rescue effort in the aftermath of the huge earthquake that hit Nepal in 2015; help to protect the world’s forests and determine who’s responsible for areas of land to tackle illegal mining, logging and forest fires; and could even be used to help predict and prevent floods.


What is the World Economic Forum's India Economic Summit 2019?

Under the theme, Innovating for India: Strengthening South Asia, Impacting the World, the World Economic Forum's India Economic Summit 2019 will convene key leaders from government, the private sector, academia and civil society on 3-4 October to accelerate the adoption of Fourth Industrial Revolution technologies and boost the region’s dynamism.

Hosted in collaboration with the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), the aim of the Summit is to enhance global growth by promoting collaboration among South Asian countries and the ASEAN economic bloc.

The meeting will address strategic issues of regional significance under four thematic pillars:

• The New Geopolitical Reality – Geopolitical shifts and the complexity of our global system

• The New Social System – Inequality, inclusive growth, health and nutrition

• The New Ecological System – Environment, pollution and climate change

• The New Technological System – The Fourth Industrial Revolution, science, innovation and entrepreneurship

Discover a few ways the Forum is creating impact across India.

Read our guide to how to follow #ies19 across our digital channels. We encourage followers to post, share, and retweet by tagging our accounts and by using our official hashtag.

Become a Member or Partner to participate in the Forum's year-round annual and regional events. Contact us now.

The United Nations Development Programme has said it will use digital technologies to transform the way it tackles issues such as poverty and climate change.

It is also using drones to create 3D maps of the Maldives – a country extremely vulnerable to the risks of climate change.