Archeologist Luis Jaime Castillo is using drones to help map the 1,300 year-old Moche civilization around San Idelfonso and San Jose del Moro, two sites on the Peruvian coast north of Lima. "We can convert the images that the drones provide into topographical and photogrammetry data to build three-dimensional models," Castillo told AFP. "By using the pictures taken by drones we can see walls, patios, the fabric of the city."
Separately, Hildo Loayza, a physicist with the Lima-based International Potato Center, is perfecting ways to apply drone technology to agriculture. "The drones allow us to resolve problems objectively, while people do it subjectively," he told AFP. "In agriculture drones allow us to observe a larger cultivation area and estimate the health of the plants and the growth of the crops. The cameras aboard the drones provide us with 500 pieces of high-technology data, while with the human eye one can barely collect ten," Loayza said.
Precise, high-quality images allow experts to measure the amount of sunlight the plants are getting, and study plant problems like stress from heat, drought or lack of nutrients, he said.
Other potential civilian drone use, Flores said, includes closely observing areas of natural disasters or studying urban traffic patterns.
In the thick Amazon jungle, where access by ground is often extremely difficult, drones can be used to study wild animals. "Every time an animal goes by, it can snap a picture," said Flores. There are no laws in Peru regulating the civilian use of drones, which allows advocates to push for all kinds of projects.
Their use in urban surveillance, however, could be seen as an invasion of privacy.
While experts are still dreaming up new ways to use the aircraft, security officials do use drones for military and police intelligence purposes, especially in Peru's rugged and remote valleys where coca -- the source plant for cocaine -- is grown.