SPH Engineering, a Latvian engineering business, has created a system that enables the entirely autonomous collecting of water samples using a drone. The concept is built around a customized DJI M300 RTK. The Latvian Center for Environment, Geology, and Meteorology recently successfully tested the system (LEGMC).
DJI M300 RTK customized to autonomously collect water samples
The LEGMC is a government body in Latvia that is in charge of environmental monitoring (water, soil, and air) and quality assessment.
Because traditional water sampling procedures are time-consuming, labor-intensive, and prone to error, LEGMC asked Riga-based SPH Engineering to create a tool to assist the organization in swiftly and safely obtaining water samples from contaminated water.
SPH Engineering chose to create a water sampling device using a drone-based on the widely available DJI M300 RTK. To that purpose, the drone was outfitted with a water sampler and an onboard computer from UgCS SkyHub.
The flights required to collect water samples are automatically scheduled and conducted by the UgCS ground control software.
The sampling procedure is completely automated. First, without the participation of a drone pilot, the drone flies to the specified destination.
The drone then descends to the necessary height before lowering the sampler. After collecting the sample, the drone will lift off again to transport it to the collection spot.
The drone is outfitted with a radar altimeter, which provides real-time altitude readings as it descends to the sampling site.
This altimeter also ensures that the sample is obtained at the exact depth selected. Because there is no human interference, samples can be taken from risky or dirty waters, as well as from far distances from the coast.
Alexey Dobrovolskiy, CTO at SPH Engineering, further explains how the system works: “The system makes it possible to repeatedly sample water at the same location and at a constant depth.
A major benefit of the optional equipment, consisting of an altimeter and UgCS software, ensures the safety of the drone in flight as the improved altitude accuracy over the water.”
There are numerous advantages to employing drones to monitor water quality. As a result, in 2019, TU Delft collaborated with Rijkswaterstaat to develop a ‘Pelican drone’ that could descend on the water’s surface to collect samples. That drone was being used at the Marker Wadden at the time.
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