In the weeks before Christmas 2015 Cumbria was badly hit by storm Desmond. Rivers overwhelmed flood defences and homes were inundated. The area was completely devastated in the aftermath of the floods. Street after street were lined with skips as the entire contents of people’s homes were scooped and shovelled through the front doors.
The emergency services, including firemen, the police and the army, were on site to provide support and aid to the local people. Roads had debris scattered all along them for miles, and some bridges had totally or partially collapsed. Soil movement had exposed services and drainage systems to the elements.
Jim Main, Director of Inverness based survey company, Caintech Ltd, was contacted late in the day on the Friday 11th of December 2015 by Dr Monica Rivas Casado of Cranfield University working in conjunction with the Environment Agency.
The flood which had affected Cockermouth required surveying as a matter of priority and Caintech already had the equipment and expertise to be able to produce highly accurate aerial surveys of difficult areas.
All the needed was permission to overfly the town, no small matter in itself! Caintech pulled out all the stops, contacting the Civil Aviation Authority just before they closed on Friday evening.
The CAA couldn’t have been more helpful given the seriousness of the situation, working into the evening, and by 9.30pm Caintech secured a special permission to allow them to fly their Sirius Pro Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) over the town to a distance of 1000m and up to an altitude of 400 feet.
Having driven from Inverness, the flight team were on site early on Saturday morning. Unfortunately the weather conditions were not suitable for flying, however Sunday the 13th dawned clear and bright, by 1130am the team had successfully carried out two flights of the areas of the town affected by the flooding.
Flying the UAS over large built up areas was a first for Pilot Tim Riome, windfarms and quarries are his more usual area of operation.
After returning to Inverness the data processing was started on Sunday evening to give a digital elevation model and orthophoto which were in the clients hand by mid-afternoon on Monday 14th. Every 3cm square of the affected area had been accurately surveyed.
Within the difficult context of severe flooding, UAVs have the potential to help researchers to map with very high accuracy the extent and damage of the flood event.
Unlike other options (such as satellite imaging) they can be rapidly, inexpensively, and flexibly deployed.
Since completing this project Caintech have, working in conjunction with the CAA, secured permissions to allow for flights over towns, cities, roads and railways to a maximum distance of 1000m, up to 600 feet above ground level and in open countryside up to 1500m.
Utilising a Sirius Pro Fixed wing UAS Caintech are able to provide aerial survey data covering in excess of 200Ha per day to resolutions in the order of 2cm.
Areas not easily or quickly accessible can be reliably surveyed and modelled without disruption to activities within the survey area. With the ability to react quickly to client requirements and one of the most wide ranging permissions in the UK there is almost no area which cannot be accurately surveyed.
To find out more visit: www.caintechltd.com