Advances In Drone (UAV) Technology for Stormwater Quality and Watershed Management Applications
The developments in the technology for Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) or drones offer unique opportunities for acquiring real-time data including high resolution georeferenced mapping and imagery for a variety of specialized applications in stormwater quality and watershed management. Drones offer that ability to perform reconnaissance/inspection of watershed systems with a unique perspective rather from the ground level. Recent advances in the UAV arena include not only the drone vehicle/aircraft technology, but also in the areas of (1) support flight/navigation software, (2) a variety of advanced payload sensors, and (3) support software which open a variety of new applications for watershed / stormwater management applications. The immediate benefits from the UAV technology include (1) real time information, (2) improved time and schedule for acquiring data as well as the ability to repeat the collection sequence in the future exactly, (3) greatly reduced costs, (4) custom work plan for the user, (5) ability to acquire data from normally remote / inaccessible locations. Drones now also provide a highly unique and beneficial data source for remote sensing in the watershed systems that can seamlessly link GIS based mapping and watershed modeling software. High quality mapping and imagery provide the ability to directly integrate data into GIS-based watershed assessments as well as modeling/forecast engineering tools as well as other useful data mapping assessments and presentations.
The primary areas in stormwater management which drones have the ability facilitate and benefit include (1) inspections / surveys for both construction sites as well landuse applications, (2) watershed surveys for data acquisition, (3) water body/receiving waters characterization and water quality assessment, (4) natural water bodies water quality and biology, and (5) natural stream system hydromodification assessment / erosion surveys. A variety of the new types of technology associated with drones are reviewed that directly influence watershed / stormwater management applications including a variety of new advanced sensors that benefit watershed/stormwater assessments including infrared, thermal imagery, LIDAR, and water quality sensors. The different advances in the software for watershed and stormwater management assessment related to GIS applications are reviewed, including benefits from the advancements in the aircraft controls and the navigation software case studies illustrating the applications in watershed inspections/surveys. Several different case studies will be reviewed illustrating the applications of the new advanced technology and the applications to stormwater/watershed management which include such as stream surveys assessment and erosion monitoring, construction site monitoring, watershed mapping/characterization, BMP performance monitoring assessments, stormwater facility inventory mapping, and water body assessments.
An overview of general equipment requirements, as well as general operating guidelines is provided on a “how to” basis and discussed to provide operational background. A variety of drone technologies and equipment available on the market, as well as the investment costs are explored including their advantages/benefits for different stormwater management applications. Government regulations are in a state of flux because of the rapid expansion of this technology and these restrictions/requirements are discussed in more detail relative to the different potential uses, as well as the future of new restrictions/limitations for their operation. Stormwater management can greatly benefit from the recent advances in UAV technology offering innovative and superior data for a limitless range of improved applications. The advances in drone technology now provide an improved data link to data not previously accessible and allow more effective planning / monitoring activities of the watershed.
Bruce Phillips is Senior Vice President for PACE, a specialized company in environmental water resources and hydraulic research located in Fountain Valley. Bruce has over 30-years of experience in stormwater/flood management/river engineering/hydraulic analysis/hydrology. He has master of science degrees in both Civil Engineering from California State Long Beach and also Petroleum Engineering from USC. He is also a lecturer in a variety of hydrology and hydraulics courses at the California State Long Beach civil engineering department for over 25-years. In addition, Bruce has published over 60 different papers on stormwater water management and river engineering.