While drones can help stop animal cruelty by photographing unjust practices in factory farms or circle dangerously close to the ground for who knows what reason in the neighborhood park, they’re capable of being more than just a high-tech looky-loos. One company is creating drones that test water samples to protect the environment.
Designed for ecologists and those working in the oil industry, this new wave of unmanned aircraft can safely land on a lake or pond and take water samples.
Several corporations have jumped on the water-sampling bandwagon, Technology Review reports. North Carolina commercial drone company PrecisionHawk’s tiny seaplane sucks up water to test for oil leaks. Right now, the unmanned vehicles return to the researchers for testing, but engineers are looking to equip the drones with a small spectrometer that can analyze the samples itself.
A quadcopter drone developed at the University of California, Merced, hopes to use water landings for DNA testing. By analyzing environmental DNA, researchers can track endangered and invasive species.
Carrick Detweiler at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln is working on a “Co-Aerial Ecologist” to test for toxic algae and invasive zebra mussels in manmade lakes. The drone itself is already capable of testing temperature and conductivity
In each case, the quantity and large expanses of bodies of water to cover make testing water through drones more accessible than conducting the work by boat. And this is likely only the beginning for more hands-on drone work. Detweiler is also working on a drone that can test land plants by way of mechanical arms.
Top photo courtesy of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln