Drone technology boosts innovation in water hazard applications | So Good News


While there are still challenges in the widespread adoption of drone technology, RSS-Hydro is leading several innovative projects to use drones in water-based threat applications.

Many remote sensing technologies exist in both industry and academia – from ground-based sensors to airborne and space-based platforms – to measure a vast array of environmental parameters important for ecosystem services, environmental management, transportation, and weather. name some major areas of application.

Market opportunities for drones

Agriculture is one of the leading industries in which remote sensing, especially ground-based and airborne, has made great strides over the past few decades. It has recently become one of the leading application sectors in the drone market. Drone technology was introduced to the sector more than two decades ago.1 Currently, the second and sixth largest addressable markets for drone-based solutions are agriculture (for crop monitoring) and the insurance industry (for risk monitoring and assessment), with an estimated potential value of $32.4 billion, respectively. worth $6.8 billion.2

Another area of ​​application for drone-based solutions is emergency management, especially in the case of natural disasters such as floods. On the one hand, drones can be useful before a flood begins by collecting a wealth of data on critical infrastructure and supporting flood risk assessment efforts. On the other hand, drones can be useful for assessing flood extent and damage after a flood occurs.3

Industrial challenges

It is clear that drones are very useful and the market has huge growth potential; however, the use of drone technology comes with several challenges. These challenges are mainly in Europe, where new regulations restrict the use of drones, especially uncertified drones. The goal is to create a controlled environment and increase safety, and drones will be used in many industries due to the “booming market”.4 As a result, flying drones, whether for personal use or in a commercial setting, requires a number of precautions to comply with regulations. Unfortunately, this can be more complicated than expected in some cases, especially when considering a risk assessment or specific category.

That is why many European countries and elsewhere have national drone federations that aim to support companies during these procedures. The newest addition to this network of international federations is the Luxembourg Drone Federation (LDF), a founding member of RSS-Hydro. The LDF’s main commitment is to help members develop a streamlined permit-to-fly procedure for operators. Therefore, LDF also acts as an intermediary between companies and the Luxembourg Department of Civil Aviation (DAC) by authorizing flights to facilitate exchange and compliance. The LDF also cooperates with the administrations of bordering countries.

R&D opportunities

Due to their high flexibility and easy adoption of drone technology, they have become an asset in a wide range of innovative research projects. RSS-Hydro manages several innovative research and development projects, combining computer modeling with the latest advances in remote sensing technologies, including satellite and drone imagery.

Examples of sectors where drones are used: Exploring vineyards on the left

Survey of flood extent on the right © RSS-Hydro

In one of its projects, RSS-Hydro is considering drone technology to study the condition of plants and crops affected by drought. Because the impact of agricultural droughts depends on several local factors, such as soil, crop, and crop growth stage, information with a very high spatial resolution is needed to assess their localized impact. For this, the goal of the project is to design and build a drone for a drought monitoring service that can be activated when drought events are predicted in a specific area.

Generally speaking, it is known that drones can be used to monitor crop conditions from the beginning of the growing season to planning and harvesting. Advanced analytics allow you to monitor soil moisture and determine the need for fertilizer. To meet growing food demand and improve current water use, many people are now considering new technologies such as the Internet of Things (IoT), big data and artificial intelligence (AI) in this application area. It was appreciated5 80% of all drones will be used in Precision Agriculture Technologies (PAT) in the future, as well as detecting damage from drought, flood, hail or wild animals, intelligently managing irrigation and protecting crops properly.

The fact that drones can overcome several limitations faced by satellites in terms of spatial resolution and mission flexibility makes them a significant asset in many applications. Drones can therefore be used to support vulnerable communities that are most affected by climate change, such as in Africa and Asia. Finally, the insurance sector can use such technologies for index solutions and develop insurance products accordingly.

RSS-Hydro also uses drones to monitor flooding and related processes. This information is used to evaluate their flood risk models and to validate satellite-derived products in some research projects supported by the European Space Agency (ESA).

Humanitarian and aid development opportunities

Drones are widely used in emergency management, especially in humanitarian contexts. Mapping the extent of the disaster and post-incident damage is essential for rapid humanitarian response. The rapid deployment of drones makes them a major asset, especially in remote areas that are not easily accessible.

In the context of flood response, the United Nations World Food Program (WFP) and partners are collaborating with Mozambique’s National Institute for Disaster Management (INGC) to improve flood warning and preparedness using drone technology. By taking thousands of aerial photographs from a drone and running them through a large computer, a high-precision flood model was created to help predict and quickly identify those at risk. This was tested for the flood risk area around Mokuba (Mozambique, Africa). The ultimate goal is to expand this effort to other flood-prone areas where WFP works, helping communities become better prepared and resilient.

Aid projects are also looking to introduce drone technology as an additional tool to obtain critical local data. Together with regional and local public and private partners in Niger and Europe, RSS-Hydro’s SEMOR development assistance project will address the current data challenge in the Niger River Basin by providing a low-cost and sustainable space-based ICT solution for floodplain development. forecasting and warning model for the region. The system combines flood modeling with industry-proven, affordable, small water level sensors, open satellite Earth observation data, and drone imagery. The project will also focus on capacity building and training workshops on the topics of Earth observation, unmanned aerial vehicles and model use for water risks (floods and droughts) due to climate change.

drone technology
Patrick Mackay conducts advanced drone training in Beira, Mozambique, 2019. Photo: WFP/INGC/Antonio Jose Beleza

The future of drone technology

There are many benefits of drones. Drone technology can provide high-quality products or services and provide cost-effective and custom-made high-end solutions. UAVs are particularly attractive as a low-cost non-contact alternative to small aircraft for obtaining high-precision data over areas that are typically too small for satellites to detect any detail. In addition, they help maintain manned aircraft cost-effectively.

Although the regulations for the use of drones are becoming more stringent, the commercial and research opportunities of drones are very promising and growing rapidly. The market outlook for the application of drone technology looks very promising, with technological innovations in the manufacture of drones and the development of sensors opening up many new opportunities for growth.


  1. JJ Cancela, XP Gonzalez, M Vilanova, JM. Miras-Avalos, “Water Management Using Drones and Satellites in Agriculture,” WaterMDPI, Switzerland, 2019
  2. B Silver, M Mazur, A Wisniewski and A Babicz, “Welcome to the era of drone-powered solutions: a valuable source of new revenue streams for telecom operators”, Communications Review, PwC, 2017.
  3. Crosby, “How are drones used in flood management?”, Geonadir, 2022: https://geonadir.com/using-drones-floding-management
  4. L Tytgat, “Drone Regulation in the European Union amid a Thriving Market”, https://room.eu.com/article/Drone_regulation_in_the_European_Union_amid_a_thriving_market
  5. K Moskvich, “Flying: Are Drones the Future of Agriculture?”, IET Digital LibraryVolume 10, Issue 7, pp. 62-66, 2015.

Please note that this article also appears in our twelfth edition a quarterly publication.

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