Soggy Britain is being helped to dry out – or at least to manage the inundation – by a new application of drones.
People have become familiar with unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) but are now being introduced to unmanned floating vehicles – small boats being used by the Environment Agency to monitor river levels and speeds in the current floods.
The boats, generally less than two metres long, are sent out into swollen rivers to establish the rate of flow at various distances beneath the surface. The Environment Agency values this information as rivers can behave very differently at different depths and understanding what is happening below what can be seen helps the agency manage the current floods better and gain useful information for improving preparations to make for next time.
“The principle of communication and controlling the boats is the same as for UAVs,” notes ATDI managing director Peter Paul. “The big difference is that while UAVs operate high above any obstructions, the radio connection with the boat must take account of trees on the riverbank, nearby buildings and the boat going under bridges and into culverts. And, of course, the signal being used to control the boat and receive telemetry back must not interfere with anything around it.”
But at least they are less prone to being shot down by enemy action than a UAV.
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