Using 3D maps to reimagine Rehabilitation and Resettlement (Polavaram Dam)

Ayushi Mishra
Published in
6 min readApr 2, 2018


The Polavaram dam is an awe-inspiring sight, a multi-purpose irrigation project that would benefit all 13 districts of Andhra in one way or another. The Rehabilitation and Resettlement project attached to the dam is responsible to build 15 colonies for the residents of 184 submerging villages (based on an under 45.72 m submergence contour estimation). This is the first project with DronaMaps I have personally worked on, a few days of interacting closely with the local population and the state department had me convinced that this was a calling, a job worthy of a soundtrack from Shahrukh Khan’s Swades. Our task was to preserve the data for 5 submerging villages with extreme fidelity in 3D maps, while charting out the Masterplan for the colony of Pedimbhimpalli. We visualised both on our 3D platform.

DronaMaps provided the R&R team with 3D maps of old submerging hamlets thereby contributing to a repository of the land. Our mapping, analysis, and design of new settlements use the patterns emerging from analytics of these hamlets in conjunction with innovative smart village concepts to influence the design of new colonies. The area assigned to the new colonies was mapped by us in 3D, we extracted the contours and elevation from the same data. Our in-house architects used this granular data about the lay of the land to create a masterplan that accounted for elevation, micro-climates and natural drainage.

Meet the people

Snapshots from our time in Rampachodavaram (AP)

Our Process

  • 3D maps of habitations:

We created 3D maps for the habitations submerging on the banks of Godavari and used this maps to extract analytics about their way of life.

3D map of Madepalli (AP)
To give you a picture

Once we had the habitations figured out, we moved on to the new colonies being designed.

  • Mapping of Colony sites:

We created 2D Orthomosaics from the data captured and used it to define GPS accurate plot outlines. Having extracted the contours, our in-house architects used this map to plan the colony within this context. We would talk more about that process in another post.

Steps of Colony Planning

Impact and Results

  • DronaMaps provided a unified intelligence picture and future repository for the land from submerging habitations and the new colonies being designed.
  • Our UAV aided data collection capabilities allow for data procuring, processing, and analysis in a matter of days, instead of weeks or months.

Savings on surveying time: We spent only 10% of the time people spend on surveying manually. The tehcnique is specially useful in remote locations where manual surveying is not accurate without clearing the land.

  • We 3D visualised the existing contour of the new colonies & created CAD models on it to accurately model the natural surroundings at record cost-effectiveness. This efficient planning opened the possibility of redirecting the funds saved through these measures to other major amenities.

Accuracy: The aerial data was used to extract 20 cm contours. Although not practically necessary, the technology is capable of providing detailed contours of a quarter of the above mentioned number.

The Scope:

The repository thus created for the submerging villages not only provides analytics for today but also allows for future virtual reality integrations where people would be able to walk through these models and experience the hamlets as they were. Eventhough, we understand the limitations of the technology, however, in the absence of the actual land, this might be the closest to preservation that we can hope for. Future generations can study these villages while today we ensure that the new colonies stay true to the socio-cultural core of the original habitations and also provide the infrastructure for a village of the future.

Architectural innovations we recommended

Our Inspiration:

Laurie Baker (1917- 2007)

A British Born Indian architect awarded a Padmashri for his contribution to the field of architecture. Due to his social and humanitarian efforts in bringing architecture and design to the common man, and also his stauch belief in non-violence, he has been called the Gandhi of architecture.” Post Independence, Baker chose to stay back and contribute to the foundations of an independent India centered in its villages.

We challenged our architects to create a colony for the future of India while keeping its past in mind. Sustainable building techniques with local materials and keeping the local geography in mind were the answer. Our purpose was to use the insights gained during an ethnographic study of the area and through our maps to come up with intelligent cost saving measures that also ensure that the rehabilitation and resettlement is a colony that is aesthetically and functionally ready to be home. Borrowing insights from Lauri Baker we used our 3D maps as a foundation for innovation in rural architecture.

We recommended-

  • Our 3D maps were used to plan for Microclimates (vegetation, wind, and water body optimisation)
  • Designing buffer areas within the masterplan for better ventilation (possible on our maps)
  • Filler slabs ( to reduce ceiling cost by nearly 50% and are aesthetically pleasing )
  • Utilising the brick texture ( gives a rustic feel while saving on the cost of plaster. The insulation needs are fulfilled by strategic placement of plaster)
  • On the demand of villagers we recommended a thatched roof porch area using local sourced materials (an insight from our ethnographic study). The increased cost can be accommodated within the savings from the changes we made above.
  • Adding vents in the house for cross ventilation.
Proposed changes to design

Mobile Infrastructure: Planning for a smart village

A common fleet of infrastructure shared between colonies — Hightech, cost effective, and mobile.

Refurbished old shipping containers are excellent for sturdy and mobile structures. Not only is this environmentally friendly, these structures can easily be fitted with suitable kits like telemedicine for clinics to create a fleet that is mobile and acts as a shared resource between a couple of colonies.

Models for a Telemedicine equipped clinic in a shipping container

We did not foresee that this project would take the shape that it eventually did. While working on this project we truly realised the meaning of the buzzwords — “UAVs are data collection tools” whose potential is yet to be realised. The data led us to innovative answers, to uncharted territories, and fresh perspectives. Our company was founded as a mapping company with a purpose, through this project we realised the impact our technology can have on rural development and planning and also in the field of architecture. We look forward to working on more such projects that give our team a challenge, a purpose, a reason to push ourselves, and enough optimism for the future to let this technology spread its wings and make an impact.



Ayushi Mishra

Nerdy| Artistic| Quirky| Director of Strategic Partnerships@DronaMaps