Testing of a drone for ecological monitoring of Lake Baikal
Irkutsk scientists are planning air studies of Lake Baikal using unmanned aerial vehicles (drones). The aerial photography can be used for ecological monitoring of the coastal zone of the lake, shooting, for example, algal blooms or garbage pollution.
The area chosen for flights is located near Lake Baikal. A flat meadow is a suitable site for them. The drone will carry out an air survey of the lake, and, as in real aviation, it should be prepared for takeoff.
The mechanism of takeoff is the same as for a conventional slingshot: the catapult allows the drone to gain an initial speed of several tens of kilometers per hour. Collaborators from the Irkutsk Branch of Moscow Technical University of Civil Aviation launch the drone.
These are test flights commissioned by Limnological Institute SB RAS. The scientists should assess the technical feasibilities of aerial photography of the lake’s coastal line in their studies of the lake.
— — We are interested in the underwater part and its landscape: whether there is an overgrowth with certain species of macrophytes or not. There are also bottom, the ground part and the water edge zone. We can observe technogenic plastic waste there. We also assess the resolution of this device. The next stage is pattern recognition based on neuron networks to understand the coverage area with, for example, overgrowths or accumulations of detritus and plastic waste in the coastal zone, — said Andrey Fedotov, the director of Limnological Institute SB RAS.
Then, the drone flies along a predetermined route. The experts determine the investgated relief as complex that contsins hills, mountains and water. Therefore, now, it is necessary to get adjusted here, i.e. to understand where it is safe to fly and at what altitude.
— At the moment, the drone is performing a line survey at an altitude of 390 meters and at a distance of half a kilometer. Then, it turns— said Yan Ustinov, the lecturer of the vocational secondary education department at Irkutsk Branch of Moscow Technical University of Civil Aviation..
All movements of the drone are visible on the monitor. Notably, it can rise to an altitude of up to 4 km. The flight range is 70 km.
Of course, test flights are not carried out at such distances. Pilots can correct the route from the ground. Later, based on these aerial surveys, a flight plan for more detailed investigations of this area will be drawn.
This time, in the photos made by the drone, it is impossible to see, for instance, algae under the water. The pilots say that the altitude should be lower for this. The weather (clouds and rain) also affect the image. Therefore, the advantages of this device are yet to be evaluated by scientists.
— If we need to get a static image, a drone is certainly the best for it. There is a hovering stage, precise focusing stage, camera settings, and detailed shooting. It can move along the trajectory with altitude change. The drone allows us to cover a large area in a very short time. But before using the drone, we must study in detail the situation at the flight site — said Mikhail Portnov, the head of the vocational secondary education department at Irkutsk Branch of Moscow Technical University of Civil Aviation.
For the present, these are test flights of the drone. If the tests are successful, the drone can be used for ecological monitoring of Lake Baikal, for example, to identify water pollution, estimate it and determine the pollution area.