• 3 News: Unmanned aerial vehicle monitors river pollution

    3 News: Unmanned aerial vehicle monitors river pollution

    A Wairarapa farmer’s developing an unmanned aerial vehicle that can be programmed to fly remotely to take video of the state of our rivers.

    It’s being tested with the help of Victoria University in the hope it’ll be used by regional councils trying to get to grips with the problem of polluted waterways.

    An unmanned aerial vehicle is the last tool in the effort to monitor New Zealand’s fresh water. It’s being test flown in the Wairarapa over the Muir family farm.

    “We don’t actually see a lot of what is going on in the back country of New Zealand, and with this we can actually see it,” says farmer James Muir.

    It uses video as well as thermal imaging to identify pollution and pin point where it comes from.

    “It’s going to be looking for stock on rivers,” says Mr Muir. “It’ll be looking for unfenced areas and also looking for the good side of things as well.”

    It can capture scenes similar to those taken from a helicopter. But a UAV is a fraction of the cost.

    The footage uploads to a website, where people contribute their own evidence of pollution to an interactive map.

    “It puts it up as a picture,” says Mr Muir. “It puts it up as a simple report, which can be viewed online, and that way people can actually really grasp what’s happening.”

    Wellington regional councillor Paul Bruce says this comes at a critical time.

    “We’ve got this 100 percent green selling point and that’s been quite badly tarnished,” says Mr Bruce. “But we can actually retrieve it.”

    It may help councils locate problem areas so they can then take action.

    In a recent report from the Ministry for the Environment, 61 percent of monitored river sites in New Zealand were deemed unsafe to swim. With summer just around the corner, people can use this to find out what might be lurking at their local swimming spot before diving in.

    Two UAVs are being developed at Victoria University. They are ready to fly. The focus now is on collision avoidance technology.

    Once that is ready, the UAVs can be flown with a range of up to 40 kilometres, much like a military drone, using pre-determined flight plans.

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