DOST’s DREAM Planes Take Maiden Voyage for 3D Mapping

Two aircrafts carrying state-of-the-art LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) instruments took off for their maiden flights last November 22 at Clark Airbase to begin “scanning” the Pampanga river basin, thus jumpstarting the country’s first three dimensional (3D) mapping program billed as the DREAM (Disaster Risk and Exposure Assessment for Mitigation) Program – the Department of Science and Technology’s (DOST) grand solution to the country’s disaster preparedness problem.

DREAM is one of eight components of DOST’s groundbreaking Project NOAH (Nationwide Operational Assessment of Hazards or Project), the country’s flagship program in disaster mitigation.

By employing the LiDAR technology, 3D datasets will be created to be used as basis for reliable, detailed, and up-to-date flood hazard models for the country’s 22 major river basins, and consequently, for all flood-beleaguered areas in the entire archipelago.

While not exactly new (LiDAR technology has been around for 10 years), Program Leader Dr. Enrico C. Paringit said that it is the most effective technique to accurately measure elevation and depth critical to flood modeling. “This is what Google maps or Google Earth lacks: a 3D coordinate. It has a few 3D maps but only for select cities, like New York in the US”, he said.

According to Dr. Paringit, not only does DREAM have the one of the most, if not the most, extensive three-dimensional mappings in South East Asia; it is a homegrown initiative as well, composed of Filipino engineers and scientists.

“LiDAR maps also have vertical accuracy of plus and minus 20 centimeters. Philippine base maps and 2D Google Maps, on the other hand, have plus and minus 10 and 20 meters, respectively, and cannot be used for effective flood modeling” he added.

The first flood model of Marikina was put to test during the Habagat phenomenon of August 8 and succeeded in alerting the communities of impending flood, thus, saving the lives of many. Eventually, all of DREAM’s flood models  will be incorporated into the Project NOAH website to complement the mother project’s other advanced tools for disaster preparedness and mitigation and achieve its target of issuing flood warnings as early as six hours before actual occurrence.

While the focus of DREAM is now mainly on riverine floods (situated in river basins), LiDAR mapping is equally useful for coastal and urban flooding.

In fact, the maps serve other purposes as well, according to Dr. Paringit.  “The maps that will be generated by DREAM will be very beneficial for government agencies. After the initial mapping and flood modeling program, we can always use the LiDAR instruments for other purposes, including, God forbid, post-disaster damage assessments like earthquakes, tsunamis, etc.,” he explained. The 3D maps may also be applied in forest inventory, environmental monitoring, infrastructure planning, faultline mapping, archaeological surveys, agricultural assessment, and even government revenue management.

In two years, the DREAM-LiDAR Project is expected to complete all flood models for the major river basins, which are roughly 33 percent of the country’s total land area.