Updated May 24, 2019

Using UAVs to Map, Monitor and Protect Indigenous Territories

UAVs are a low-cost, powerful and effective tool for indigenous communities to map, monitor, and protect their territories. UAVs help collect important data and are an alternative to satellite images for precise photogrammetry and 2D and 3D mapping.


Nina Tushev

Stage 4: Transition to Scale

We have demonstrated success in the three field tests as described in country examples below. There is overwhelming demand expressed by indigenous communities to use UAVs to monitor and protect their territories, and a tremendous opportunity to scale

Focus Areas:

Land Tenure, Forestry, Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) and 1 MoreSEE ALL

Land Tenure, Forestry, Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) and GIS/MappingSEE LESS

Implemented In:

Peru, Panama and Guatemala

Peru, Panama and GuatemalaSEE LESS

Countries Implemented In
Funds Raised to Date


Indigenous peoples are stewards of territories rich in biodiversity and natural resources; their lands are some of the best-preserved landscapes on earth. As such, they face tremendous pressures from mega-infrastructure development, illegal mining, oil spills, land grabbing and encroachment, etc. Indigenous communities remain marginalized and lack the ability to consistently monitor their territories or provide credible evidence and seek redress; land titling; and manage their environment.



UAVs are effective, powerful, low-cost tools that indigenous peoples can use to monitor, map, and protect their territories and natural resources. In a short timeframe, UAVs can collect important data that can be processed into 2D and 3D maps, or used as evidence to seek redress. UAVs have a wide range of applications that can be essential for indigenous peoples to effectively manage their lands, including agricultural management, early disaster detection, assessment, monitoring, mapping, etc.

Target Beneficiaries

We partner with indigenous peoples and local communities because they hold traditional knowledge solutions to humanity's most pressing crises, such as climate change and loss of biodiversity. It is well documented that indigenous peoples manage some of the richest carbon stocks in the world. Their survival and thriving is essential for the well-being of the planet.

Mission and Vision

Our mission is to democratize UAV technology and to develop its use for humanitarian and environmental purposes, including the securing and protection of indigenous peoples' rights. UAVs in the hands of indigenous peoples have the potential to change the power dynamic and give them the ability to collect evidence to protect their rights and lands.

Innovation Description

We provide a holistic, comprehensive approach that includes designing and building UAVs, training in UAV operation and maintenance, and data collection and processing including photogrammetry, 2D and 3D maps and modeling, etc. In the early days of our work with indigenous communities, when UAVs weren't as evolved as they are now, more focus was needed on building a craft to serve a particular purpose. For example, in Peru, where as part of the mission we had to assess an oil spill 10 miles away from our home base, we customized an RC airplane with an autopilot and outfitted it with a First Person View (FPV) system for long range flight. Although delta wings and RC airplanes offer a longer range, they are harder to master flying (they also require more space for launch and landing). Today, there are off-the-shelf products, such as quadcopters etc, that are easier to learn to fly and capture high quality data. Our team's expertise includes decades of experience building and flying small remote-control craft, including First-Person View systems (navigating a craft by means of video goggles streaming a live feed beamed by a CCTV camera onboard the craft) and sophisticated data processing. We also have experience working with indigenous communities in the field, and an understanding of their essential role in environmental protection. Our approach combines technical, social, cultural, and advocacy expertise to deliver tools and training that are culturally and mission-appropriate.

Competitive Advantage

Our innovation is holistic and comprehensive. Our focus on indigenous communities and supporting them in their work to secure their rights, and manage and protect their lands and resources, is unique. In addition, our team has extensive technical expertise both in terms of hardware and software solutions but also how these can be used for indigenous rights advocacy and activism. We also offer an understanding of the international fora which can ensure that local-level solutions are communicated and showcased at the global level.

Planned Goals and Milestones

We are working on several different concepts, including one to develop a solar UAV that can be used in areas with no electricity, and another to deliver medicines and vaccines to a remote area in the Amazon rainforest.

The Team Behind the Innovation

Tushevs Aerials was developed by Georgi and Nina Tushev to design, build and fly remote-control airplanes. Georgi Tushev is a visual artist and designer of remote-control airplanes who has created many unique designs of fixed wing airplanes, quadcopters, and other craft. He is one of the pioneers of the FPV (first-person view) mode of flying using VR goggles. Nina Kantcheva Tushev is an environmental activist who works at the UN to ensure that indigenous peoples' traditional knowledge informs solutions to climate change.



Mar 2019
Recognition ReceivedVERIFIED
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