CCCCC launches its LiDar System

The Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (5Cs), through the U.S. AID-funded Climate Change Adaptation Programme, launched its Light Detection and Ranging system today in Belize City. The system, known as LiDAR will help to significantly boost the Caribbean’s ability to limit the devastation of climate change by improving its capability to monitor and plan for physical changes to the land and marine environments. The two million-U.S.-dollar tech system has been fitted into a Cessna aircraft of Maya Island Air. The 5Cs is now in possession of this costly, specialized, highly tactical and technical system, for which two persons have been trained to operate it.

This brand new Cessna small Maya Island aircraft touching down may look like a part of its regular fleet – but it’s not. This aircraft is valued over three million U.S. dollars. That’s because it will not be transporting passengers – but it will be out doing invaluable survey to capture important data for decision making. So, this customized aircraft is fitted with the high-tech LiDar system –called Light Detection and Ranging. It is a sensing method that uses light in the form of laser to map land and sea floor.

Dr. Ulric Trotz, Deputy Director & Science Advisor, CCCCC

One of the most important pieces of data that we lack particularly dealing with coastal development and coastal communities is what we call near shore bathymetry – that tells you where the depth of the sea is from your shore. And on shore topography that is the elevation. Now, near shore bathymetry is important because when a hurricane comes, the storm surge that you get depends very much on the sea floor and the depth, so with this equipment, we are now able to feed this new information into the storm surge models that we use. It would show that if you have a category two hurricane and a storm surge, which areas along your coast will be affected, so it can act as an early warning system.

The piece of technology comes at a critical time when the region is need of more accurate data, as the need to provide evidence of climate change impacts has grown.

 Dr. Omar Figueroa, Minister of Environment, Belize

I must stress that incorporating this airborne LiDar system into our arsenal is a game-changing moment for the Caribbean Community. For us to adapt, we require information about the nature of climate risks. The collection of climate related data is especially important for Caribbean states since we are highly sensitive to changes in the climate and sea level rise. And we are experiencing the most severe effects of climate change sooner than most other countries.”

This Light Detection and Ranging system, which was acquired through the USAID’s three-year CCAP Project, is the only one of its kind in the region. Now that the Caribbean Community Climate Change Center owns this system, it will allow them to do more work without the high cost. And so the LiDar system will be used across the region and will help generate revenues for the CCCCC.


Dr. Ulric Trotz

We can make a base-line and then return at different periods to see what changes have taken place in your ocean floor, in your shore line configuration. So, it is very important and the thing about it is that we have access to it but at what price? We couldn’t afford it. And what happens is that countries contract consultants from overseas with the equipment to do it. They collect the raw data, do the processes and give you outputs. The data doesn’t remain here and if you need that data again, you have to pay again. And it is very, very expensive. And we figured that having this, we can get countries to have access to this technology at about one tenth of the prince that they have to pay for it at this point in time.”

Andrea Polanco

So, you’re also generating revenues from this?”

Dr. Ulric Trotz

Well, our center receives no subventions from Government, so we have to earn our keep. So, this, we anticipate is going to be a revenue stream for the center.

The Airborne LiDAR system is a significant achievement for data capture in the Caribbean – and it supported by local partner Maya Island Air forThe LiDar can also be used for agriculture mapping, as well as to do surveys of mangrove ecosystems. 

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