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Drones for Justice: Rainforest Conservation and Protection by Local Communities in Borneo, Indonesia

March 7 2015

This expedition aims on mapping rainforest with an extraordinary high biodiversity. The remote area is subject to anthropogenic disturbances large scale logging, mining and oil palm plantations. Indonesian spatial planning process actually gives locals a chance to influence spatial plans. The key is the locals need to provide maps proving that the forest are still exist and they need to provide that the forest is conserved and protected through the customary system sustainably. The locals need to obtain the status of “customary forest” in order to protect the remaining forest. Conventional participatory mapping might take months in remote areas, using drones is way more efficient and more accurate. Scientifically, UAVs as a method to conduct participatory mapping and to monitor land-use-changes provides a promising methods and arena for further research. Technically, very-high resolution geo-referenced map will be developed through methods of using UAV to take aerial images of the forest, then developed into maps and legal documents for the local communities. Educationally, training in mapping forest using UAVs Communities, NGOs and government agencies is believed to give community strength to support their on-going efforts in protecting the forest, thus promoting environmental and social justice. We will explore the geographical heart of Borneo in West Kalimantan and Central Kalimantan, Indonesia. The area is covered by some of the last remaining primary rainforests worldwide, that harbors an extraordinary high biodiversity and local communities that depend on it. We use UAVs for aerial mapping, showing the importance and the beauty of this ecosystem.

March 7 2015


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Mission Underway

The Quadcopter!

This little thing also uses APM for controlling the flight [thus able to perform autopilot and other cool automatic stuffs, thanks 3DRobotics!]. It has 4 brushless motors of 360 kV [360 RPM at full speed] which will carry a 17 inch carbon propeller each. It's weight [body only] is 1095.9 grams and its AUW is 1769.8 grams [already with mapping camera [Canon S100] and Lipo battery 5000 mAh, 4 cells]. WIth his setup it is expected that this little thing can fly for at least 30 minutes.

Let's see


Great news! Excited to get the drone out to you, too!

The Tricopter !

This thing uses APM as flight controller! Its weight [body only] is 761.1 grams. Its AUW [all up weight] thus with mapping camera [Canon S100] and battery [ 5000 mAh, 4 cells lithium polymer] is 1473.5 grams. It is expected that with this setup this 'little' thing can fly for at least 35 minutes! Let's see!


Count-Down ..... Copter SquaDron[es] is ready

First of all, thank you so much for following. We now have 50 followers! Thanks so much. We are looking forward to get into the field and start and of course reporting you from the field. Finally, the copter siblings are ready to fly! GPS, flight controller (autopilot checked), telemetry, vibration damper, battery, etc. ! Yeah! And they both have to be able to squeeze themselves for practical reason transporting them to Indonesia with plane. Here are the Pictures!


Do-It-Yourself Vibration Damper

One of the possible problem using drones for making aerial video is the 'jello' effect in the video. Many said that it is caused by the vibration due to many things (i.e. unbalance propellers ). Andrew Newton (in Youtube) has designed an amazing vibration damper, cheap and easy. He made it out of gift card, we try to modify a bit and make it from a board and zip ties (computer ties???). Looks promising, will try it very soon and post the results!

Swandiri Institute Team


Great idea! Very low-cost solution!

DIY Box and Peace Drone

The Box and Ansley Peace Drone [APD] when it's set. It's really really a great design of Ed [Experimental Airlines in Youtube] that it can be broken down into pieces and modules, fantastic.


Do-It-Yourself [DIY] Box 2

Here is the interior of the box with 1 plane and 1 tricopter. Still plenty of room there.


Do-It-Yoursel [DIY] Box

Finally, self-made box for carrying the drones (during the flight and on the field) is ready. Didn't really imagine that there would be plenty of rooms. It was designed first for carrying the planes, but after putting all the plane's pieces there is still plenty of room. The box is 100 cm x 40 cm x 20 cm it's not too heavy (around 2 kgs). So, now... need to think about putting the sponges inside to protect the equipments that will go inside the box. It looks like that the box will be able to carry all the drones (2 planes and 3 multicopters). Let's see...

Swandiri Team


RGB / true color Image

Below is the true color image taken by CANON S100.


NIR [Near Infra Red] Image

Below is the NIR image taken by modified CANON S100 using filter provided by Public Lab.


NDVI [Normalized Difference Vegetation Index]

So, after struggling (literally) opening up one of the CANON S100 and changing its infra red filter with blue filter from , we managed to have a modified NIR (Near Infra Red) camera to be able to capture NIR images thus developed further into NDVI, an index used to identify the 'stress level' of plants. The idea is to bring it above with the drones and to capture some maps of rice field belonging to the local communities before the harvesting periods. Last year, hundreds of thousands of hectares of field were having bad harvest, putting the locals not only into the food security problem but also economic problem (indebted etc.). The idea is, if we are able to conduct what so called "precision agriculture", it might help the local communities to identify the potential failure thus to take action sooner before everything is too late. Based on our preliminary study (ethnography and focus group discussion), the reasons for the failure are: drought, pest infestation, rapid and massive expansions of oil palm plantations.

Camera is ready, now we try to understand the images and to make sense of it. What kind of information can we derive from such images. The test is being done at home towards home plants. Thanks to Event38, Flightriot, PublicLab for the amazing works and for the share of knowledge.

The image below is the NDVI image developed from NIR image using an opensource software ImageJ (amazing software by the way). The video shows how to modify a pocket camera into NIR camera (thanks to PublicLab for such an amazing research and filter).


[supposedly] Portable GCS [Ground Control Station]

Yeah... slowly but it's there piece by piece! Now, the supposedly portable GCS is ready. It is an affordable Tablet [plus tripod] running Android 4.4 loaded with amazing apps "DroidPlanner" to act as the main controller for mapping mission in the field later on. The idea is to have a GCS that is light enough, powerful, and practical to control the drones. So far, it's lot of fun to be able to explore Droidplanner. Still some stuffs are not clear for us (i.e. maximum flight altitude, flight-time estimation) but we're there. Just one thing is still missing, the sunshine protection as we can imagine, it's going to be tough to look at the tablet's screen with very bright sunlight on the field.

have a great weekend,
Swandiri Team


This is great! By sunshine protection do you mean a screen cover which reduces glare? Setup looks great, can't wait to see all these tools in action!

The Field Box!

So, box is also ready! This is the box that will carry two 'drones' [tricopter and quadcopter] on the field. This box is handy enough for some walks in the jungle! Pretty heavy though [5 Kg or so, need to think about how to leave some stuffs]. But, when the drones are ready, it shouldn't be that heavy as definitely some stuffs will be left outside the box.


I have the same tool box. Very useful and sturdy but way too heavy for any field work. You might want to build a custom lightweight backpack solution.

Hi Benoit, thanks for visiting and your interest. Indeed, very heavy ! Thanks for the suggestion. Any suggestion for 'perfect' material for do-it-yourself box? The idea is that it can also 'protect' these 'rather little' flying things when it's inside the plane's baggage room :). I have the impression that they just throw things there :). Thanks

Canon S-100 with CHDK is Ready!

So, after spending about 2 hours learning from some youtube videos and from CHDK (Canon Hack Development Kit) website, we are finally able to load CHDK firmware to this little great Camera Canon S-100! Yeah, basically the camera is ready to take pictures for creating maps! Well, ready to be flown by the drones and taking picture from above! As explained at earlier post, to be able to take picture in interval time, we need to 'hack'/modify the Canon S100 by loading a firmware called CHDK! Amazing tools!


Amazing Project! Did you choose the s-100 for any particular reason, or was a camera you already had available?

Hi Erika, thanks for dropping by and for your attention! Hummm yes, S-100 has internal GPS, relatively light [I guess it's around 197 grams] and it can be 'controlled' through CHDK which we definitely need for mapping with drones [taking hundreds of pictures in interval time] and that's the most important ... it's affordable :). Ah... one more, they say it has the sensor which is similar to the one for DSLR, although for a total unprofessional like me I still can't understand properly how significant the difference is (are).

Folding quadcopter - underconstruction

Yeah, finally one last fleet, folding quadcopter! The idea is simple: we would like to have a drone which can fly in the difficult circumstances (for flying) for example areas with thick forest canopy, and then map the forest. We decided to try to develop a folding quadcopter! Why (also) quadcopter while we have already tricopter ? The reason is twofold: (1) it has a slightly payload (so who knows we want to carry more cameras for other types of data, i.e. Near Infra Red camera as developed by ), (2) if we lost one (hopefully not!) in the forest, we still have the backup!

Swandiri Team


Folding Tricopter - under construction

So, now it is about another airframe called tricopter. Yeah... a copter kind of UAV with three motors. Why tricopter? .... sometimes it's not easy to take off or to land the plane in the dense forest without open space (which on the other hand it's a good sign for the forest :)). Your drone might end up in a tall trees and it's quite difficult to get them back. So, we use multicopter (so far we use tricopter and quadcopter, we will make another post on it later).

Thanks to David Windestål of who came up with this brilliant idea of neat, great folding tricopter! You can see his video below and yeah .... our tricopter is under construction! hopefully she will fly soon and make sure you are tuned in to watch the flight.



Ansley Peace Drone on-going - The Airframe

So, again , we are always trying to keep the cost as minimum as possible for this expedition as simply we don't have that much money to spend. Previously, we wrote about our camera hunting [Canon S100] in Ebay or somewhere else to get the 2nd hand camera. Here, we will discuss a bit about the type of drone (UAV if you like) that can be made of depron (or styrofoam) and doesn't cost you that much (we would say around 40-50 USD without electronics). This plane is a great design of Ed from Experimental Airlines [check out the youtube video below]. He is very keen to share his design and to help others to build it. This plane is proven to be very stable and easy to control and most importantly for us : with plenty of rooms in its fuselage (body) so that we can carry the cameras for multiple purposes (mapping, videoing , etc.). Thanks lot Ed!

Below is the on-going Peace Drone ! Under construction and just a little bit more!!! Once it's ready, we will test this plane and make sure to share the videos with you all! Tell us how do you like the design (and the colors! :)).

Warm wishes,
Swandiri Team

PS: Ansley is Ed's daughter!


Camera Hunting [Canon S100]

As we try to keep the cost of equipments as low as possible, we are doing one of the fun parts of this expedition, Camera Hunting!!! From time to time we open up our eyes (and our ears) and checking Ebay or other second-hand stuffs website where we can find rather cheap and affordable Canon S100. Yeah, this camera is one of the little amazing camera that you can use for mapping with drones thus giving you great results (of orto-photo: stitched images). This camera has an internal GPS (thus the images are geo-referenced), and they say have a sensor like the one on DSLR (I am not good in photography and camera stuffs, but yeah ... that's what they say).

This camera will be loaded with a program called CHDK (Canon Hack Development Kit) which allows this camera to take picture in the interval time (i.e. every 3 seconds etc.). So, the idea is, when this camera is lifted on the drone at certain altitude, and the drone flies following certain waypoints, the camera will continuously take images (facing 90 degrees down) until the drone performs its mission. At the end of the mission, the camera will bring some hundreds of images that need to be stitched with a stitching software (some are proprietary some are open source). After, more or less, an hour or so we will have the stitched images into a one map (orto-photo) in a very high resolution (1 pixel = 10 cm or if you want to put it in scale then it's 1:1000). More than enough for preparing a legal map as required by the legal system in Indonesia.

Yeah, pictures of the camera is below and film on how to load the camera with CHDK is also below. Now, ... time to hunt some camera again :).

warm wishes,
Swandiri team

PS : if you have heard a photography technique called timelapse (it's an amazing techniques), then you might want to load any of your Canon pocket camera with CHDK, check them out!

Expedition Background

We have been working intensive and extensively in the last, at least 3 years on the forestry, environment and its related issues, in particular: community mapping, land and forest protection, and community based spatial planning where we are very interested and committed in promoting what we call as spatial transparency for promoting social-ecological justice, where real community involvement and participation in forest conservation, in our opinion, plays an important key role.

West Kalimantan in Indonesia is one province in Indonesia where large-still-existing forested areas are playing important roles for the livelihood of local community members as well for local and global climate system. However, this area is now under high pressures and threatened by massive deforestation due to the ongoing mining and gigantic-scale agriculture expansions. It was reported by Forest Watch Indonesia (2014) that the rate of deforestation in West Kalimantan during the year of 2009-2013 is 426.000 ha. It is also mentioned that West Kalimantan is the province with the largest deforestation in palm oil plantation concession with total amount of 147.600.000 ha. And based on the report, deforestation in Indonesia during the period has reached approximately 4.50 million ha with annual average rate of 1.13 million. It is not surprising then that Indonesia has been accounted by many international agencies as the third GHG emitters in the world after China and USA.

Based on the results of Swandiri Institute serial research and analysis during 2012-2013 due to spatial planning issue in West Kalimantan, the “space” allocated for extractive industries based on forest and land use has been exceeded approximately 130% of the land area (policy brief, 2014). The space has been allocated to several schemes of concession legally recognized in Indonesia. The mining concession either for the exploration or exploitation has been issued for 721 companies covering the total area of more than 5 million ha. And there have been approximately 326 permits issued to the oil palm plantation with total allocation area of 4.8 million ha. While forest industries have gained legal Business Utilization Timber Forest Product in Natural Forest issued for 103 companies covering the total area of more than 2 million. While Business Utilization Timber Forest Product in Forest Plantation has been issued for 378 companies covering the total area of more than 4.9 million ha.

The proposed project aims at community empowerment towards good forest governance and social-ecological justice in West Kalimantan within the context of Indonesia. The objectives are threefold: (1) mainstreaming spatial transparency by promoting participatory and inclusive landuse-planning through the involvement of local communities supported by inclusive technology and reliable and accessible spatial, quantitative and qualitative data, (2) promoting forest conservation with focus on greater involvement and ensuring rights of indigenous and local communities including women, and (3) promoting sustainable livelihood through the protection of community managed land from the rapid expansion of deforestation. Based on our previous research and experiences, one of the roots of the ongoing massive deforestation problem is the messiness in Indonesian spatial planning process, and it is due to the rather centralistic and exclusive process, thus leaving the community who are mostly affected behind and not well informed and involved. Thus, the expected ultimate outcome of the proposed project is to create socio-political space for greater involvement and participation of local community groups in spatial planning process and policy making in particular by focusing on forest and community land protection.


Very compelling mission and video. The idea of "spatial transparency for social-ecological justice" is well-put and makes a lot of sense. I will definitely be following along!

Dear margaretsinsky, thanks lot for following and for dropping by. We hope to be able to update often about the mission and to share to you all here. We try our best to work with the locals in a fun way to see the beauty of our mother earth! Thanks and warm wishes!

Portal MATA sae sanget, kulo takjub lan mulyaake sumawi MATA dipun sebarke dateng rencang-rencang monconegoro. Maturnuwun kula dipun ijinaken follow MATA

Mas happysakata ingkang sae. Matur nuwun, panjenengan sampun kerso mampir yen kerso kerjo bareng MaTA.