Mapping water quality using aquatic drones

NEWS - April 2020 Robbert de Lange is an MSc student Water Management, and was in Myanmar from February until April to measure the lake quality at different locations using a drone. He did this project in cooperation with INDYMO. INDYMO is a Dutch start-up that works in the field of the management of water resources and water quality. INDYMO focuses on innovative ways of monitoring water quality and ecology using underwater and water surface drones (dynamic monitoring) equipped with water quality sensors (e.g. dissolved oxygen, electrical conductivity, chlorophyll, blue-green algae), sonar and video cameras. The mobility of sensors and cameras provide a low-cost and rapid 3D assessment of surface water quality with high spatial resolution and quality. Water drones have already been tested in Indonesia, Vietnam, Mali and Peru, and are now being used for assessing the condition of water resources in Myanmar.

Local water managers in Myanmar are interested in applying and testing unmanned tools to assess the water quality in one of the main lakes in the heart of Yangon: the Kandawgyi Lake, where the water quality has been rapidly deteriorating. Spatially distributed information about water quality in the lake will be used to plan actions to improve the water quality in the lakes. A second measuring location was the Inle Lake, a famous site for its picturesque fishing activities and extensive floating gardens. The water quality beneath the gardens, and throughout different parts of the lake is being investigated. Other locations such as reservoirs or rivers may also be scanned with aquatic drones during this project.

After this field monitoring campaign, a long-term water quality monitoring plan will be designed based on the observed spatial variability and the mapped pollution hotspots. Local Myanmar students of the University of Yangon will continue collecting relevant water quality data on these lakes. INDYMO will also contribute to the discussion of potential solutions together with stakeholders/water managers. Robbert was engaged with local stakeholders such as DWIR (Rijkswaterstaat of Myanmar), WWF and the Yangon Technical University to spark action for improving the water quality and showing the capabilities of INDYMO.