Drone-based water sampling goes deep

Drone company making it "Reign" with aerial water sampling.
Written by Greg Nichols, Contributing Writer

Water sampling and analysis methods today are logistically complex, labor-intensive, time-consuming, and costly. Could drones, which are relatively cheap provide part of the solution? 

After two years of research and development, a company called Reign Maker believes the answer is yes as it roles out the world's first drone-based water sampling and data collection system, designed to increase sampling rates and accuracy while reducing reliance on field personnel and equipment, such as boats and boots.

The solution is called Nixie, and the company claims it can increase sample rates by 75% while reducing costs by 90%. 

"The New York City Department of Environmental Protection alone collects 14,000 water quality samples a year, collecting 30 samples a day using boats, captains, and a crew of three at an average cost of $100 per sample," says founder and CEO Jessica Chosid. "With Nixie, a crew of two can collect 120 samples in the same seven-hour shift, at a cost as low as $10 per dip."

The drone collects samples by lowering EPA certified bottles exactly two feet under the water's surface in currents up to 5 knots. The approach is important because it eliminates a common problem with manual sampling, which is that sediment and debris are often stirred up by technicians, reducing sampling accuracy. Nixie registers the GPS location and timestamps every sample it collects, allowing water managers to closely track changes in water chemistry by time and location.

Applications include public-private utilities, oil & gas, environmental monitoring, mining, agriculture, and disaster and spill mitigation.

The system currently supports DJI M600 and M300 RTK enterprise drone platforms, which it says have proven safety, reliability, versatility, and ease of use. DJI is currently on the U.S. Entity list.

Drones of various kinds are being used more frequently for environmental and infrastructure monitoring. Singapore, for example, recently sent out drones to watch over its reservoirs and monitor water quality. Ocean-going sailing drones have also been deployed in aid of environmental monitoring. Nixie commercializes the approach with a new technology suite designed to be used in a number of sectors.

"With Nixie, we are committed to changing how water is analyzed worldwide, one sample at a time," said Jessica Chosid, Founder and CEO of Reign Maker. "Our mission is to remotely collect, digitize, and transform commercial,  industrial, and agricultural water management across the supply chain."

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