ROCKY MOUNTAIN WATER JANUARY 2017 | 11 FEATURE So, why use a drone for water resource and water supply and treatment purposes? • To obtain a bird’s eye perspective over water areas. • To access difficult to reach locations (e.g., forested watersheds, over water bodies, deep ravines). • For greater data accuracy (e.g., pho-togrammetry applied to quantify vol-umes and highly accurate locational data). • For improved repeatability of data. • To reduce risk to water industry staff. • It can be significantly more time- and cost-effective. The terms drone and unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) are used almost synony-mously, although UAV is more descriptive and is used by proponents of the industry. UAS refers to the entire system associated with unmanned aerial flight, including the aircraft (UAV or drone), the ground-based controller, and the system of com-munications between the two (see more at www.dartdrones.com). Drones and UAVs are also sometimes called “birds,” a term taken from the aerospace industry. The variety of drones is expanding, but in general, fixed wing drones can usually carrier heavier payloads and are for flights that are of longer duration with unobstructed views, whereas rotary wing drones are more maneuverable for precision in small areas. Payloads can include cameras with varying technical capabilities to acquire image-based, yet often quantitative data, or sensor packages including increasingly sophisticated measurement capabilities such as thermal, near, short-wave infrared, multi- and hyper-spectral, and electromagnetic measurements (Figure 1). When the objective is to evaluate a rela-tively small area but in high detail, drones are often preferable to satellite imagery because they can fly at low altitude and acquire high-resolution data (Figures 2, 3). Drones can even be outfitted and programmed to obtain samples from water bodies inaccessible to people and bring them back for extensive constitu-ent analysis. The Federal Aviation Administration’s newly modified Rule 107, in effect August 29, removed some of the biggest obstacles previously in place for operat-ing drones, including the requirement that a drone operator have a license to fly manned aircraft. Although line of sight requirements still apply, the rules incor-porate a brand new system of regulation opening up access and authorization for many more to operate drones. These recent regulatory changes significantly open up the opportunity for commercial unmanned flight. For additional detail on the regulations, see www.faa.gov/uas. In summary, UAVs offer: • Low cost per data point; Drone images taken during the September 2013 flooding in Longmont, Colo. Clockwise from top left: (1, 2) washed out road and bridge; (3) submerged walkway; (4) flooded sewer treatment plant. Courtesy Constantin Diehl, UAS Colorado.
RMW January 2017
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