The regular testing of rivers, lakes or reservoirs is also a constant task for water professionals. But Nixie’s drone solution is simpler, cheaper and up to four times faster than conventional solutions. The most commonly used methods for testing water quality have not changed for a long time. On the one hand, long-established solutions are still effective and accurate today, and on the other hand, sampling by professionals has been essential in this field for many years.
However, the use of machines can also be a good alternative. An example of this is the Reign Maker Nixie solution, where the developers have installed sample collection and sensor arms on a flying structure. The sample collector is a long vertical arm that is used to transfer the required amount of water into a fixed tank. To use it, you simply place the empty container inside and then guide the drone to the sampling site, where it can easily submerge the container in the water.
When the drone returns, simply remove the sample from the floating device and replace it with an empty container. The device can then fly to the next location without landing. The battery lasts for 20 minutes on a single charge, allowing two to four samples to be taken in one take-off, depending on weather and distance. Once the battery has been replaced, the aircraft can continue its flight.
For comparison, the Reign Maker is based on data from the New York City Department of Water and Power, which can collect 30 samples in a day from a boat or other method. One sample costs roughly $100 (including labor and fuel). Nixie’s method, on the other hand, collects an average of 120 samples per day at a cost of about ten dollars per sample.
Of course, the drone is not self-contained. It also requires control pilots to operate it. However, a two-man crew, for example, still represents less manpower and cost than conventional solutions. DJI’s M600 and M300 RTK drones are currently used for the job. An additional advantage of deploying automated drones is that they have precise GPS coordinates for each sampling point and do not disturb the water when diving. Experts are also working on a more sophisticated version, which would be able to monitor parameters such as water temperature, pH, harmful organisms and chemicals, thanks to built-in sensors.
The Reign Maker is currently working with the New York City Department of Environmental Conservation, but is also in talks with others. While the system will undoubtedly require an initial investment, training and a change of mindset, in the longer term it will be a quicker and cheaper solution than usual. In the longer term, the company also hopes to sell a SaaS (Software as a Service) service that would include real-time updates of water quality maps through continuous testing.