Marine & Freshwater Research Centre experts first in Ireland has pioneered the first of its research using drones for open lake water sampling.
The MRFC at Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology (GMIT) has won funding from the Irish Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to assess the potential of drones to sample water and physico-chemical data from open lakes. The EPA’s current Research Programme 2014–2020 is built around three pillars – Sustainability, Climate and Water.
Dr Heather Lally, Dr Ian O’Connor and Dr Conor Graham will lead this research and have secured €132,000 for the two-year project. They will examine the water samples collected using drones to determine their ecological status as per rules in the EU Water Framework Directive (WFD). They will also determine whether drones can be used to increase the number of lakes monitored; and find out if drones could be quicker, more cost effective, less labour intensive and safer sampling protocol for the EPA as part of their WFD Lake Monitoring programme.
The GMIT team comprising Multi-national and multi-disciplinary experts including water chemistry scientists, lake biologists, incorporated engineers, licensed unmanned aerial vehicle pilots will also be working closely with industry partners Model Heli Services (MHS), an enterprise based in Ennis, Co Clare (Liam and Mark Broderick), and Professor Olaf Jensen of Rutgers University in New York State, USA who uses drones to monitor river and lake habitats in North America and Mongolia.
Principal Investigator Dr Heather Lally says “Application of drone technology in environmental monitoring has really taken off over the last few years. Here at GMIT’s MFRC, we are coupling this novel technology with a practical approach to solving water quality sampling issues and achieving greater compliance with the EU’s WFD. We hope that the project will allow a great number of inaccessible lakes to be monitored, whilst offering quicker sampling times and overall greater value for money to the Irish taxpayer”.
Mark Broderick, Model Heli Services, says “Ireland’s drone specialists, Model Heli Services, are delighted to be collaborating with GMIT in this exciting project. We look forward to designing and building the drone and payload system. Ireland is leading the way with drones and how they can be used in all sectors -this is another chance to show what can be done.”
All members of the research team have successfully completed drone flight school that are Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) regulations compliant and industry partners MHS are licensed fully to operate drones up to 25kg in mass.
The research will demonstrate the use of cheaper drone technologies to gather quality data to help create a more cost effective and complete WFD Lake Monitoring programme and ultimately Ireland’s greater compliance with the EU WFD.