Latvia trials automatic water quality sampling with DJI drones

drone water sampling

To improve the safety and efficiency in its water quality sampling process, the Latvian Environment, Geology, and Meteorology Сenter (LEGMC) is mulling over the use of drones. To this end, a trial flight has been conducted using the DJI M300 RTK drone and an automated water sampling system developed by SPH Engineering.

The LEGMC is a government organization responsible for environmental monitoring (water, soil, air) and quality assessment in Latvia. Realizing that traditional water sampling methods are time-consuming, labor-intensive, heavily dependent on the use of boats, and prone to human error, the LEGMC requested Riga-based SPH Engineering to develop a tool that would help the organization to obtain water samples from polluted waters quickly and safely. This is what they came up with…

Drone-based remote water sampling system

SPH Engineering’s drone water sampling solution consists of:

  • Ruttner water sampler with 1-liter volume for DJI M300 RTK drone or up to 5-liter volume for DJI M600 Pro drone.
  • Onboard computer UgCS SkyHub to control water sampling process in a fully automatic mode. Water sampling missions are planned and flown in automatic mode with UgCS software.
  • Radar altimeter for real-time altitude measurement during the flight to the sampling location where it is necessary to take a sample, and also to control the descent to the required altitude to take a sample from a set depth.
  • A proprietary release mechanism.

Under a fully automatic process, the drone flies to a set location, descends to the required altitude, and releases the messenger to fill the sampler. Once the sample is collected, the drone ascends and delivers it to a set location. Since there is no human involvement at the site, samples can easily be taken from dangerous or contaminated waters, or at long distances from the shore.

To show how the data collection system and the software work, SPH Engineering has shared this video from a trial flight that was conducted at a Latvian lake:

And it has proven to be a success. According to a LEGMC representative:

The system allows water to be taken repeatedly from the same location at a constant depth. The limitation to our workflow has been the volume that could have been larger to maintain even more practical work. A big advantage is the optional equipment (an altimeter and UgCS software) for both the safety of the drone during the flight and the improved altitude accuracy above the water.

Water sampling with drones saves cost, time

There are many advantages to using drones in water quality assessment. Earlier this year, New York-headquartered drone services company Reign Maker unveiled its own water sampling and data collection system, Nixie, based on DJI drone platforms. During its trials, the company found that it could help New York City slash water sampling costs by up to 90%, and sample collection time by 75%. Read more about Nixie here.

Also read: Singapore wants drones to watch over its water reservoirs

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