Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Episode 384 (9-4-17): The Water Work of Drones

CLICK HERE to listen to episode audio (3:33).

Transcript of audio, notes on the audio, images, and additional information follow below.

All Web addresses mentioned were functional as of 9-1-17.


From the Cumberland Gap to the Atlantic Ocean, this is Virginia Water Radio for the week of September 4, 2017.

SOUND – ~ 5 sec

This week, that sound of construction of a tall, netted facility on the Virginia Tech campus sets the stage for a flying mystery sound.  Have a listen for about 15 seconds, and see if you know the commonly used term for aerial devices poineered by the military but which now have rapidly expanding civilian uses, including many uses related to water.

SOUND - ~16 sec

If you guessed drones, you’re right! You heard sounds of a drone, or unmanned aerial vehicle, flying and recording video over the Clinch River in Kyles Ford, Tennessee, on August 29, 2017.  The Virginia Tech Conservation Management Institute conducted the flight to help determine the effectiveness of such vehicles for mapping and monitoring shallow-water habitats.  That’s just one of many drone applications being investigated at Virginia Tech, where a new 80-foot tall, netted, enclosed area will allow experimental drone flights but avoid the permitting and safety issues of open-air flights.

Well-known for military uses and more recently for their potential commercial uses, drones that are equipped for high-resolution imaging and environmental monitoring are being investigated and used around the world for a variety of applications to water and other natural resources.   Here are six examples: assessing flood conditions and impacts, as done in Houston recently during Hurricane Harvey; mapping coastal erosion; identifying oil and gas pipeline leaks; monitoring sea mammal populations; detecting changes to coral reefs; and monitoring atmospheric conditions in oceans from the tropics to the Arctic.

Subject to FAA [Federal Aviation Administration] restrictions on heights and flight areas, drones are likely to play an increasing role in mapping, monitoring, and experimentation in the air spaces above water.

Thanks to the Virginia Tech Conservation Management Institute for providing sounds from the Clinch River drone flight.

SOUND - ~7 sec


For more Virginia water sounds, music, and information, visit us online at virginiawaterradio.org, or call us at (540) 231-5463.  Virginia Water Radio is produced by the Virginia Water Resources Research Center, part of Virginia Tech’s College of Natural Resources and Environment.  Thanks to Stewart Scales for his banjo version of Cripple Creek to open and close the show.   In Blacksburg, I’m Alan Raflo, thanking you for listening, and wishing you health, wisdom, and good water.


Click here if you’d like to hear the full version (1 min./11 sec.) of the “Cripple Creek” arrangement/performance by Stewart Scales that opens and closes this episode.  More information about Mr. Scales and the group New Standard, with which Mr. Scales plays, is available online at http://newstandardbluegrass.com.

Drone research facility under construction on the Virginia Tech Campus in Blacksburg, August 30, 2017 (upper photo) and September 29, 2017 (lower photo).  The sound heard in the audio of this episode was of drilling holes for placing poles like those shown in the photos.

Clinch River at Kyles Ford, Tenn., as photographed on August 29, 2017, during an unmanned aerial vehicle (drone) flight conducted by the Conservation Management Institute in Virginia Tech’s College of Natural Resources and Environment. Photo courtesy of Daniel Cross, used with permission.

Photos and descriptions of the two types of unmanned aerial systems (drones) currently used by the Conservation Management Institute in Virginia Tech’s College of Natural Resources and Environment (CNRE).  Image from “CNRE Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) Capabilities—Summer 2017,” courtesy of Scott Klopfer, used with permission.


Renee Cho, How drones are advancing scientific research, Phys.org, June 19, 2017.

Jacob Demmitt, Drone research takes off at Virginia Tech, Roanoke Times, 4/2/14.

Jacob Demmitt, New drone cage in Blacksburg to be a playground for researchers pushing the limits, Roanoke Times, 8/22/17.

Tamara Dietrich, VIMS uses drones to find, study algal blooms, [Newport News] Daily Press, 9/2/17.

Lawrence Hammack, Funding approved to plan “Drone Zone” in former Covington school building, Roanoke Times, 8/29/17.  This article is regarding a planned drone research and recreational facility in Covington, Va., along with a study for the feasibility of developing an Alleghany Highlands Drone Zone.

Brian Handwerk, 5 Surprising Drone Uses (Besides Amazon Delivery), National Geographic online, 12/2/13.

Joey Holleman, New Technology: Driving Advances in Coastal Science, Coastal Heritage (from South Carolina Sea Grant Consortium), Spring 2017 (Vol. 30, No. 2).

Bart Jansen, Drones prove useful to Harvey recovery with restrictions, USA Today, 8/31/17.

ADDED 4-25-19: Whitney Pipkin, New air force joins ranks of campaign to protect Chesapeake, Bay Journal, 3/12/19.

Virginia Tech Conservation Management Institute, “UAS Operations for Natural Resource Applications,” online at https://cmi.vt.edu/Projects/Geospatial/UASinfo.html.

Virginia Tech Department of Mechanical Engineering/Unmanned Systems Laboratory, online at http://www.me.vt.edu/research/laboratories/unmanned-systems-lab/.

Virginia Tech Facilities Department, Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) Netted Facility, online at https://www.facilities.vt.edu/planning-construction/campus-construction-projects/active-projects/uav-netted-facility.html.

Matt Wright, Local company sending drones to Texas disaster zone, Fox 8 TV-Cleveland, Ohio, 8/28/17.


All Water Radio episodes are listed by category at the Index link above (http://www.virginiawaterradio.org/p/index.html).  See particularly the Science subject category.

A previous episode focusing on the Clinch River is Episode 184, 10/21/13.


This episode may help with the following Virginia 2010 Science SOLs:

Grades K-6 Earth Resources Theme
4.9 - Va. natural resources, including watersheds, water resources, and organisms.
6.9 – public policy decisions related to the environment.

Grades K-6 Living Systems Theme
6.7 - natural processes and human interactions that affect watershed systems; Va. watersheds, water bodies, and wetlands; health and safety issues; and water monitoring.

Grades K-6 Matter Theme
6.5 – properties and characteristics of water.
6.6 – Properties of air (including pressure, temperature, and humidity) and structure/dynamics of earth’s atmosphere, including weather topics.

Earth Science Course
ES.2 - understanding scientific reasoning, logic, and the nature of science.

Biology Course
BIO.8 - dynamic equilibria and interactions within populations, communities, and ecosystems; including nutrient cycling, succession, effects of natural events and human activities, and analysis of the flora, fauna, and microorganisms of Virginia ecosystems.

The episode may also help with the following Virginia 2015 Social Studies SOLs.

Virginia Studies Course
VS.10 – knowledge of government, geography, and economics in present-day Virginia.

United States History: 1865-to-Present Course
USII.1 – skills for historical thinking, geographical analysis, economic decision-making, and responsible citizenship; including b) analyzing geographic information for patterns and trends in history.

Civics and Economics Course
CE.1 – skills for historical thinking, geographical anlaysis, economic decision-making, and responsible citizenship.
CE.6 – government at the national level.
CE.10 – public policy at local, state, and national levels.

World Geography Course
WG.1 – skills for historical thinking, geographical anlaysis, economic decision-making, and responsible citizenship.

Government Course
GOVT.1 – skills for historical thinking, geographical anlaysis, economic decision-making, and responsible citizenship.
GOVT.7 – national government organization and powers.
GOVT.9 – public policy process at local, state, and national levels.

Virginia’s SOLs are available from the Virginia Department of Education, online at http://www.doe.virginia.gov/testing/.