India is a country of vast and diverse geographies. With more than 65% of its population in the rural areas, wealth and prosperity in India are intrinsically linked to the property owned and inherited by individuals. Especially in the rural areas, land ownership records are, at best, murky - a systemic lack of capacity, will and resources. Till now, surveying properties, comparing them against existing land records, and reconciliation have been manual processes.

The silver lining - the record of land rights, tracing changes in the rights and right-holders over time, deeds for registration of property transfers and other records are now beginning to get digitalized. And the SVAMITVA Scheme is at the heart of this modernization push.

The Catalysts for Financial Development

SVAMITVA (Survey of Villages and Mapping with Improvised Technology in Village Areas) is a Central Sector Scheme of the Ministry of Panchayati Raj. It is a major initiative to use drones to digitally map the inhabited rural regions of the country. The data from the drone survey is analyzed and reconciled giving rightful landowners error-free and tamper-proof records of their properties.

The scheme will catalyze financial development in rural India by empowering landowners with the necessary records to take loans and receive other benefits from banks. What started out as Haryana’s trail-blazing project of mapping villages to create a record of rights for “abadi” (inhabited) areas using a drone survey, SVAMITVA will be gradually implemented to cover over 6.65 lakh villages by March 2024.

Currently, this data is being used only to create property ownership records. But we mustn’t overlook the hidden potential of the data that is being collected here. In the near future, there will be a need to extract more useful information - the availability of roads, the availability of utilities, the presence of a sewage network, the solar energy potential of villages, and more. Right from utility providers to infrastructure companies to e-commerce to emergency services and the postal services would benefit from unique identifiers for geolocation, answers to questions about available infrastructure etc. This kind of information will be crucial to the development plan of rural areas.

Fostering Advancements in AI

The social impact that SVAMITVA ushers are tremendous. But the technology development that is being fostered in the background is also undeniable. Artificial intelligence, image processing/recognition will be vital to extracting information for future use cases, from the drone data. To enable this advanced data collection and use that data down the line, we need more robust and advanced drones that can fly with minimum human intervention. AI will be crucial to creating drones that can operate in different geographical and environmental scenarios, navigate under different conditions and produce results faster, and at a lower cost. AI and ML are also vital to areas of predictive maintenance, obstacle avoidance and navigating without GPS signals.

Object detection, classification and tracking with AI are part and parcel of the process. Advanced computer vision and image processing using neural networks are being used for the analysis of data. The Indian drone space has made big strides in AI, and now we’re using this for automatic feature extraction, richer insights, more accurate predictions, better decision making, and more.

Towards a More Financially Inclusive Future

On the other side, governance would benefit if the whole country is digitally mapped and each square metre is assigned a unique identification code. Right from analysing the distribution of population, farmed areas, wetlands, etc. to better planning and implementation of projects, to monitoring unauthorised constructions and encroachments.

Being one of the few drone solution providers involved in SVAMITVA, I’ve seen first-hand the kind of impact we are creating. Wherever we go, the locals welcome us with open arms. We’ve had instances where the locals have included us and our drones in their rituals and pujas. They see our pilots and our technology as harbingers of a brighter, more financially-inclusive future for them.