Tech: Drones could be a possible answer for overcoming the country’s challenging terrain for several purposes such as construction and mapping.

In line with this, the Department of Geology and Mines (DGM) will be using drones to map the Thimphu-Wangdue tunnel portal area tomorrow.

The department in collaboration with the Norwegian Geotechnical Institute (NGI) yesterday conducted a demonstration of the drone technology at the economic affairs ministry compound in Thimphu.

The drone took images of the compound, processed the data and within a few hours, a 3D map of the area was created. The demonstration was a part of a two-day workshop and training course at the department on modern technology for quick and effective mapping of terrain for infrastructure development in Bhutan.

DGM’s chief seismologist, Dowchu Drukpa said that drones can serve several purposes and it is a very effective tool for mapping. “To begin with we’ll be using the technology at the Thimphu-Wangdue tunnel portal area,” he said. “Quite a detailed work has already been completed on the tunnel. Using the drone would complement our effort and it will also provide additional value to the work done.”

NGI’s regional manager Asia, (PhD) Rajinder Kumar Bhasin said that since the Bhutanese topography is rugged, many areas are inaccessible for engineering geological investigations.

“Many of the projects planned in Bhutan exceed the cost which were envisaged in the beginning of the project,” said  (PhD) Rajinder Kumar Bhasin. “This is mainly due to the lack of detailed engineering geological investigations in the beginning. Drones will help in studying the feasibilities in areas, which are inaccessible thereby reducing the project cost.”

Senior engineer with NGI, Helge Smebye, said that the drone can produce high resolution images which will be processed and analysed to generate a 3D map of the area using a tailor made high-computing-machine equipped with Agisoft software.

The 3D map can be used for various purposes such as post disaster damage assessments, infrastructure development, power line inspections, glacier and snow surveys among others.

Dowchu Drukpa said that the technology will not only facilitate in producing quality work but also increase the rate of the work done. “Regulations on the usage of drones in the country are being made. It is important that the technology be used safely and at the same time legally.”

The department is using the drone after approval being provided by the Bhutan Civil Aviation Authority (BCAA).

The BCAA banned the flying of drones in March last year.

Younten Tshedup