There is an increasing uptake in use of laser mapping for development activities in Africa, especially in sectors like agriculture, mining and infrastructure development.
Aerial mapping company Southern Mapping Company and its South African subsidiary, Southern Mapping Geospatial, are using near-infrared lasers in aircraft to map large areas in high detail specifically for the agriculture, mining and infrastructure development sectors, as well as for disaster management purposes.
According to Peter Moir, CEO, Southern Mapping Co, the company, which works mainly in sub-Saharan Africa, does most of its work for mining and mineral exploration companies. Engineers use the data from the survey to plan pit expansions, design new infrastructure such as roads, determine where to sink the next shaft and calculate earth-moving cut-and-fill operations, he notes.
The main interest from countries in Africa is around infrastructure and agricultural development. “Roads, rivers, railways, power lines and urban sprawl surveys are all in our repertoire,” he says. The company has measured the urban sprawl of the informal settlement on the outskirts of Polokwane, in Limpopo, and has tracked through time the reduction of the size of the informal settlement and the proportional increase of the size of the formal housing area springing up next to the settlement, he says.
Meanwhile, the company is mapping a 500-km-long railway line route in the Republic of Congo (Brazzaville). Similarly, it has mapped power lines in Kenya and is busy surveying power lines in Mozambique. Further, by measuring the power lines and taking into account the weather conditions at the time of the survey, as well as the composition of the power cables, the company can determine which power lines can carry more electricity.