Eye on the Sky

by McNab Editorial Team
Maya Island Air

The Caribbean’s most advanced data capture platform to help combat climate change.

Maya Island Air Belize

The Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre, or the 5Cs as more popularly referred to, is embarking on what is likely to be the most ambitious data capture program in the history of the Caribbean region. This venture is made possible through a partnership with a Belizean forward-looking private sector entity, Maya Island Air.

Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre

The agreement between the two entities makes this possible with MAYA providing a brand new aircraft on which the LiDAR equipment mounts on. Moreover, 5Cs owns and operates the newly-acquired LiDAR. The Caribbean Community as a regional legal entity established The 5Cs. It is responsible for coordinating the Caribbean region’s response to climate change.


LiDAR refers to Light Detection and Ranging. It is a remote sensing technology, used to capture highly accurate elevation measurements of the earth’s surface. How does it work? The system is mounted on an aircraft or on a motor vehicle at ground level. It uses the pulsed laser light to scan the ground. It then generates precise three-dimensional (3D) information on surface shape and characteristics. This includes physical features and buildings.

LiDAR is capable of simultaneously gathering both topographic and bathymetric data. This offers economies of scale, greater efficiency, and precision in collecting spatial data and maps of large areas in a short time period. In addition, the data collected is high- resolution data, making it useful for producing high-quality maps and images.

Photo Courtesy Maya Island Air
Photo Courtesy Maya Island Air

In regards to aiding the fight against climate change, LiDAR is particularly useful in mapping areas that are vulnerable to deforestation and the impacts of extreme weather events. The precise data and information generated by LiDAR is vital to developing accurate climate prediction models. In addition, informing decisions on how these sensitive and vulnerable areas are best managed.

The Value of LiDAR

However, the demand within the region for LiDAR imagery is much greater than the region can ever afford. Acquiring and processing LiDAR imagery is costly. So far, countries in the region haven’t been able to find sufficient funds to map even their most vulnerable areas. Nevertheless, the investment by MAYA and 5Cs now puts the acquisition of this data within the reach of all twenty Members and Associate Members of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM).

The value of airborne LiDAR bathymetric and topographic surveys to the region have also convinced the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to finance the acquisition of the LiDAR by the 5Cs. The support came through its Eastern and Southern Caribbean Office (USAID ESC) under its Climate Change Adaptation Program (CCAP) which 5Cs is currently implementing. This development has also caught the eye of the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) and the Government of Italy. They have provided further financial support needed by the 5Cs to conduct the surveys. Maya Island Air and the Centre are in the ground-breaking territory in this vitally important venture. One that will reap important and life-changing benefits for all the countries of the Caribbean.

Written by CC+L editorial team

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