When Matthew Aligaen Cua started SkyEye in 2009, he just wanted to use drones to track weather and climate. But soon he started to see how drone technology could be used to understand, measure, and design interventions to slow or even reverse climate change in the Philippines. After multiple disasters, including the Bohol earthquake and Typhoon Haiyan, Matthew and his team members went into business to help assess damage, assist communities in resettlement, to aid in search and rescue operations, and to map out how communities could rebuild more effectively.
One surprising area that Matthew and his team have found themselves assisting with is land titles. After years of work, the SkyEye team discovered that people often do not want to evacuate their homes before or during a disaster because they do not have land titles. They are afraid that their property will be lost if they leave. So, to many people, trying to weather the storm may actually seem less risky.
Using drones for land surveillance would prove cheaper for land surveillance. And using these unmanned aerial vehicles to make it easier for people to get titles to their land seemed like a no-brainer. But getting people to pay for this new service proved trickier than Matthew and his team anticipated.
On one hand, some large companies felt uncomfortable working with such a new, young team. And for the SkyEye team, trying to work with the government also proved difficult. As a small startup, they didn't necessarily have the capacity to wade through government bureaucracy and paperwork.
However, because of the team's experience in university research and collaboration, they were able to use that to their advantage. In addition, from having worked in disaster response with various NGOs, they were able to build close relationships with NGos that could help them get started and grow their business.
Now, in just one community in Aklan, Caticlan, SkyEye drones have helped more than 50 families secure their property rights through land titles to their land. And it doesn’t stop there. SkyEye’s team and activities have been growing. SkyEye now employees 23 people, and their operations have expanded. For example, by using drones to map and plan infrastructure projects, the company has helped build more than 40km of roads and bridges reduce travel time in the municipality of Javier, Leyte. In Lake Palakpakin, San Pablo, Laguna, SkyEye has provided the local fishing community with drone maps so they can monitor resources exploitation and water pollution. The community is now active in increasing the fish population in the lake, and learning to monitor the health of the lake on their own.
SkyEye is demonstrating how drones can be used to propel peace, prosperity, and resilience to climate change and natural disasters.
This story idea was submitted by Impact Hub and developed by ANDE. Impact Hub is a network that strongly believes in a world where business and profit are used in service of people and planet. Being deeply rooted in the local community whilst having a strong global connection, each Impact Hub is uniquely positioned to design relevant programs, events and activities to inspire, connect and enable purposeful entrepreneurial action around the social and sustainability issues most pressing for the local reality at hand.
Developing resilient infrastructure and fostering innovation is and SDG-related topic of dire importance in a developing island nation like The Philippines. SkyEye won Impact Hub Manila's first-ever Fellowship program on Innovation in Mobility. They were awarded 12 months of incubation and one million Philippine Pesos to help provide solutions, in this case through precise, efficient land mapping using drone technology. The opportunity helped SkyEye gain respect and recognition, which led up to their 2016 Ricebowl Awards Start Up of The Year win, being named finalists a PDLT #BeTheBoss finalist, and being asked to give numerous talks and workshops in a community that previously did not understand them.