Will Reckling, a doctoral student at North Carolina State University’s Department of Marine, Earth, and Atmospheric Sciences (MEAS) is using drone technology to collect water samples from harmful algal blooms off the North Carolina coast.

Last month Will Reckling took to the skies with his drone over the mouth of the Chowan River in North Carolina on a mission to sample algae infested water to take back for testing.

Reckling equipped his drone with a mesh harness dangling 20 feet below the drone with two plastic tubes that fill with water once lowered into the algal blooms.

Reckling is also an alum of the Center for Geospatial Analytics, has a Masters in Geospatial Information Science and Technology along with being the director of geospatial technology at Theorem Geo.

Along with using drones to collect water samples, they were also used to find and document rare plants on mountain tops. Reckling has been working with assistant professor Ryan Paerl who has been able to learn a lot from the partnership in terms of drone technology, the image data it produces, and the biology of the algal blooms.

To get the drone sampling system working required a few test runs with different length fishing wire as often when the wire was too short gusts from the propellers would cause the water to spill out of the sides and agitate the algal blooms on the surface of the water. Reckling shared this was required as using the drone means “every once matters.”

Using the drone has been beneficial as it has been able to improve the sampling efficiency and the image data captured by the drone. In the past, satellite images were used to monitor the river but with the addition of the drone, Reckling can essentially take photos of it anytime he wants.

Have you seen drones doing similar work in the real world before? We’d love to know what you’ve seen or what you do with drones in the comments below.

Photo: Abe Loven

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