Drones: The Latest Tools in Drought Management

Did you know approx. 25% of California is desert? That equates to an astonishing 25 million acres of dry, desert landscape.

Growing up in southern California, I was always aware of this fact. Over the years, I found it interesting most people only speak of beaches, the gold rush, and movie stars when discussing the Golden State.

But, growing up in the land of sun and celebrities gave me an important perspective on one of the planet’s most precious resource: fresh water.

Though many people take it for granted that when you turn on the tap water will flow, it’s not always that simple.

Growing up, many years were classified as droughts, and I’m no stranger to water rationing. More people around the world are sadly also facing water supply issues, as drought management becomes critical to our planet’s future.

Climate change is real, with drought conditions surfacing on every continent except Antarctica.

According to the United Nations, in 2022, more than 2.3 billion people will face water stress, and almost 160 million children will be exposed to severe and prolonged droughts.

Before things get worse, we must act to address this problem, and drones are a major component of addressing the needs of drought management.

Drones Detect Water Waste for Better Drought Management

There’s no doubt that at some point, you’ve seen someone wasting water.

In fact, you’ve probably been guilty of it yourself at one point or another. We all have.

One of the ways to help prevent drought conditions, or at least conserve water for better drought management, is by making sure obvious wasteful uses are curtailed.

For example, leaky, broken water pipes continue to be a major source of wasted water everywhere.

Not necessarily your dripping bathroom sink (though you should probably get that fixed), but the underground maze of pipes delivering it to homes and businesses everywhere.

In fact, a report in 2018 found that half of the countries in the European Union lose 20% of their drinking water before it reaches people’s homes. In some EU countries, that loss is nearly 60%. 

You already know that even a small leak within your home can add up pretty quickly.

Now, just imagine if that leak was in an industrial pipe transporting water across a town, a county, or even further.

How can you effectively detect those leaks, especially if they’re transporting that water over hundreds of miles and under the ground?

You guessed it: drones.

Drones equipped with LiDAR cameras are capable of detecting leaks even when pipes are underground.

LiDAR can show inspectors where areas of the ground are sinking (often a sign of water in the soil) and determine wetness levels.

As this use of drones and LiDAR expands, we’ll likely see a significant decrease in water waste due to leaky pipes.

Yet, that’s only the beginning of a drone’s usefulness for better drought management.

Night time photo of a drone silhouetted against the moon
Recent: What are the Regulations for Flying Your Drone at Night? click the image to learn more

Optimizing Agriculture with Drones

In many regions, the majority of fresh water is used for farming. In fact, some parts of the world use up to 70% of their water for agriculture alone.

With farming accounting for so much of our water usage, it makes sense that the mismanagement of this precious fresh water contributes to droughts.

For years now, drones have proven an excellent tool for optimizing agriculture. Multispectral cameras provide farmers with information on soil content, plant health, crop damage, water usage, and more.

Drones carrying these special cameras show where too much water is being used and where irrigation leaks are occurring.

With large-scale farms covering hundreds, or even thousands of acres, drones are the perfect solution to gather the data necessary for drought management.

UAVs cover large areas of land in a short time and provide real-time data farmers use to stop water waste in their fields.

Research has even been conducted that may one day make drought predictions possible with agricultural drones.

Monitoring Climate Change with Drones

To overcome the challenges of drought management, it’s important to understand why they’re happening.

To this end, drones are ideally suited for monitoring a shifting climate.

From glacier monitoring to recording sea level rise, drones are becoming a favorite tool of scientists tracking climate change across the globe.

So, what makes them so perfectly suited for the job?

Drones can carry a wide range of payloads from standard cameras to LiDAR. In combination with precision navigation, drones help create 2D and 3D maps that can accurately show changes in ice movement or water levels.

If you’re in business of studying climate change, you can then analyze the trends and look for historical patterns based on these highly accurate readings.

The data collected can point to signs of drought, providing policymakers with the information they need to prevent the situation from getting worse.

In this role, drones act as an early warning system for droughts on the horizon.

Drones can Literally Make it Rain

As if drones weren’t already having enough positive impact on combating droughts, now they can even make it rain.  

With an average rainfall of around four inches, the United Arab Emirates is one of the driest places in the world.

Even worse, the last few years have seen significant drops in expected rainfall for the UAE. For the people living there, drought management is one of the most pressing needs they face.

The low levels of precipitation led the country’s National Center of Meteorology to look for alternative methods of producing fresh water. 

One method being investigated is cloud seeding with drones.

A prototype developed by Keri Nicoll, a scientist at the University of Reading in the United Kingdom, is literally making it rain.

The drone is catapulted into a cloud, senses temperature and humidity, and zaps the cloud with an electric charge. This charge, in turn, causes it to start raining, with very promising initial results.

While the system isn’t yet ready for widespread application, the proof-of-concept remains very encouraging.

Bringing it Together

Droughts are a significant issue worldwide, affecting nearly every country and region at one point or another.

As a planet, we must take action now to combat the effects of climate change and help prevent droughts from occurring.

Now, drones are becoming a vital tool in the fight to save one of the most precious resources on the planet.

Whether detecting underground leaks with LiDAR, surveying crops and irrigation systems, or literally making it rain, drones provide a unique solution to a worsening problem.

As new innovations come along, we will see drones play an even larger role in drought management programs around the world.

So, which drone is right for you? And, where do you start? Do you hire out or bring your drone program in-house?

At Consortiq, we help you find a better way with drones, from consultation and program implementation to actually doing the work for you.

Ready to learn more? Just complete the form below to schedule a risk-free consultation!

Picture of David Daly - Contributing Author

David Daly - Contributing Author

David Daly, is an award-winning photographer/writer and licensed (FAA) Commercial sUAS pilot. A graduate of the United States Naval Academy, David is a former Marine Corps officer with a BS in Oceanography and has earned his MBA from the University of Redlands. David has worked for Fortune 100 companies and has a background in aerospace, construction, military/defense, real estate, and technology.

Ready to Integrate Drones Into Your Organization? Contact Us Today to Get Started!

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.