During the pandemic, the IDB Country Office in Guyana embraced drone technology to advance project supervision, an innovative way of yielding greater value in project execution.
“What date was that picture taken?” asks the contractor looking at an image of a road construction project in Georgetown, Guyana.
“On May 4,” the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) transport consultant replies.
The Project Manager of the Project Executing Unit (PEU) chimes in, reminding the contractor he previously shared photos of the same site, and although it was now May 25, there were still work safety matters to be resolved. The contractor pauses before admitting the Manager is right and commits to having a dedicated team address each concern raised within one week.
For this transport project, that one image proved pivotal in reaching a timely and positive outcome for improving safety for stakeholders affected by the project’s implementation.
In fact, drones have become integral elements of IDB project supervision in Guyana. It is an innovation advanced during the pandemic when physical site visits were restricted.
The Country Office of Guyana first procured drones in 2018 to support sharing project success stories. IDB staff were trained to use these devices to capture images and videos at site visits. When the pandemic emerged in 2020, the Operation Teams saw an opportunity to maximize its resources while conducting regular site visits by developing visual progress reports to ensure consistent project monitoring, while minimizing health risks.
This approach to project execution has brought many benefits – especially considering Guyana’s vast landscape with rural communities scattered across challenging terrains where transport systems are often limited, costly, and constrained by erratic weather. Physical site visits require weeks of planning, budgeting, and logistics. A visit to one project site can take several days.
Before drone supervision, IDB-funded operations in Guyana, like the Citizen Security Strengthening Program (CSSP) that involved civil works at rural police stations, incurred high monitoring costs with physical site inspections. Supervisors travelled periodically from the City of Georgetown to the project area, requiring two or more travel days and overnight stay. Progress reports took several days to be finalized.
Now, with drone supervision, PEUs have real-time, reliable data to approve project deliverables and process payments faster.
Environmental and social safeguards
Additionally, wide-angle images cover nearby communities that could be potentially impacted by project activities. This forms part of the new IDB Environment and Social Policy Framework (ESPF) fulfilling the Bank’s commitment to its Environmental Social Performance Standards (ESPS), especially those that address community health, safety, and security. The IDB’s environmental and social safeguard teams can access the data and make prompt inputs even when not physically present in the country.
In October 2021, a drone-led supervision exercise revealed a dire flooding situation at a police station, which previously went unnoticed due to the site’s remote location. Equipped with photos of the site, the IDB team was able to quickly engage the PEU to resolve the issue. The result? A more rapid response and an improved working environment for police officers.
Similarly, the Central Housing and Planning Authority (CH&PA) at Guyana’s Ministry of Housing and Water uses drones to gather data on occupancy levels, informal settlements, and conduct assessment of beneficiary compliance. This has proven cost-effective and requires less manpower. Reliable data is captured more quickly and over larger areas.
One image at a time, this innovation is adding value to IDB-financed projects in Guyana allowing greater efficiency in project execution and strengthening synergies among internal and externals stakeholders. The result – continuously improving lives in Guyana!
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