Nov 28, 2018

Duke University Scientists Use Drones to Survey Floodwaters

Drones can detect floodwater contamination in hard-to-reach or dangerous areas

Scientists use drone to monitor floodwaters
Scientists use drone to monitor floodwaters

Scientists from Duke University have begun using autonomous boats and drones to survey and sample floodwaters in difficult to reach locations. The new survey methods potentially could track contamination sources during major flood events.

According to PBS News Hour, Duke University Scientists Dave Johnston and Rett Newton are in the early stages of testing the technology for floodwater assessment.

“There area  lot of places where you don’t want people to actually expose themselves to those places. Think about doing water quality testing at a mine tailing pond, right?” Johnston said. “So programming a little boat to travel up into a tidal creek, or to have–program a drone to go over to a certain spot and take a sample, those are revolutionary technologies that allow us to sample in places that people just can’t get to.”

The drones are equipped with thermal cameras which can provide a clear picture of where sources of water are flowing, as reported by PBS News Hour. This tool could provide insight when trying to pinpoint sources of contamination as well as where there is a potential for exposure following floods.

Similarly, researchers from University of North Carolina have developed a faster method to detect contamination in drinking water following flood events. Rather than the current system of growing the bacteria from the water and finding results in 24 hours, Researchers have proposed a new test that determines the amount of DNA of a certain type of bacteria and provides results in an hour. The new test is undergoing regulatory review by the U.S. EPA, but has the potential to expedite water quality assessments in the wake of major flood events.