Every year, New York City spends over $1.4 million to collect water quality samples. But now, a new drone-based solution can help NYC, and over 50,000 other water utilities in the United States, to slash their water sampling costs by up to 90%, and sample collection time by 75%.

Nixie is the world’s first drone-based water sampling and data collection system. It has been designed and developed by Reign Maker, a New York-based drone services company.

Ensuring safe water supply is essential for public health. And Nixie-enabled drone water sampling not only helps utilities to reduce labor and costs dramatically, but it also makes water sampling safer and efficient enough to exceed federal EPA guidelines.

Drone water sampling with Nixie

Nixie is a patented drone-mounted water sampling attachment and lockable bottle cradle that can be attached to DJI M600 and M300 RTK drones. Designed to hold EPA-approved water sampling bottles, the device can easily plunge 2 feet below the water surface, withstanding up to 5 knots of current.

As such, Nixie doesn’t stir up sediment in shallow water, and exceeds federal EPA guidelines by eliminating the risk of contamination that comes from rounding up only the top layer of the water.

Moreover, by utilizing the drones’ GPS systems to log telemetry data, including time and location coordinates, Nixie improves each sample’s chain of custody. And with the availability of historic GPS logs, the device can be repeatedly dipped into the same location to record water quality changes over time.

As Jessica Chosid, CEO of Reign Maker, points out:

While many think a water quality analysis begins in the laboratory, it truly starts during the collection of the sample. Sample collection is critically important because the majority of errors during water quality analysis occur at this stage.

Related: Singapore wants drones to watch over its water reservoirs

drone water sampling

Each drone attachment costs $850. And both the insertion of the water bottle into the cradle and its subsequent collection are done while the drone hovers next to the technician. Each operation lasts no more than three minutes.

Here are some more figures to put that in context: The NYC Department of Environmental Protection collects about 30 water samples a day, using boats, captains, and a sampling crew of three. Nixie can grab 120 samples in the same hour-hour shift, thereby reducing water sampling time by 75%.

Similarly, while with the current traditional, labor-intensive methods of water sampling, each sample costs NYC over $100. With Nixie’s integrated drone water sampling and data management system, that cost can be as low as $10 per dip, Chosid says.

Also read: Drone video shows rapidly shrinking Lake Mead at Hoover Dam

Reign Maker is now working on Nixie Advanced, an end-to-end water management solution. This version would combine IoT-based hardware sensors, software, data analysis, and cloud-based management services to allow in-situ water quality monitoring, anywhere in the world.

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