Drone Survey

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Detailed Description

USGS revolutionizes data collection by surveying a river channel within the Redlands area using a drone.


Image Dimensions: 480 x 360

Date Taken:

Length: 00:02:44

Location Taken: Tucson, AZ, US


So this particular reach of channel is a headwater,
it’s a flood warning gage, and it’s the

headwater of Cataract Creek, which then flows
into the Havasupai village.

So having a really high end model that we
can then make a very accurate relationship

between stage and discharge through a very
large range of height will help with the flood

warning in addition to really tying down how
much water came through post flood with post


We are flying basically just back and forth
across the river channel, inching our way

back and forth and getting a series of overlapping
photographs that can then resolve height differences

within the channel.

Creating these models from the air with sufficient
resolution gives us a static model in time,

but a living model that we can go back and
analyze many different ways, where when we

come back with a traditional survey we are
stuck with what we have and we have to put

our confidence in that.

So we designed a flight plan that would allow
us to make a good 3D model and so if a flow

comes through and dramatically changes the
channel we can actually assess how that’s

been done, go back out, fly it again, look
at those roughness coefficients, look at due-change

detection, look at where volumes have changed
and be able to quantify if it’s a debris

flow situation or building sandbars.

In 10 years where do you see drones fitting
into scientific data collection?

I think it’s going to keep evolving, should
take off here in the next year or two.

We have been very fortunate working with the
Department of Interior, USGS, and the Bureau

of Land Management all working together for
a common goal.