Drones and Flood Warnings

One of the latest developments in flood warning has come from the surprising source of Saudi Arabia. Although we might not always associate this arid country with floods, it has suffered more than its fair share in recent years. Indeed earlier this year 13 people were killed in Saudi Arabia as a result of flash flooding. Jeddah was badly hit by flash floods just a few years earlier, in 2009, when over 100 people were killed as a result. These were some of the worst flood for over a quarter of a century.

Flash floods have been quite a big issue for Saudi Arabia in recent times, and it is from one of the universities there, the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology located near Jeddah, that one of the latest – and more unusual – ideas on flood alerts has been developed. The area around the university was particularly badly affected by the 2009 flash floods.

The overall thrust of the new alert system is to use several drones to track a flash flood and feed information back to a data centre where nearby cities and towns, or indeed anywhere where the population is vulnerable to flash flooding, can be informed of the details and whereabouts of the flash floods. The idea is a very simple one, albeit using high technology.

As the name suggests, flash floods come quickly, with little warning, and therefore often leave a wave of destruction in their wake. Clearly the drone system can only help in flash flood prediction and protect populous areas if the information they gather is sent out quickly and efficiently to the local population under threat. And of course there is exiting technology and systems that help predict flash flooding.

But clearly there is room for improvement on the current flood warning systems, as Saudi Arabia’s recent experiences will testify. This new drone system could give advance warnings of flash floods of between 30 minutes and 2 hours before a flood hits. The drones will help in predicting the precise path of the flooding, so residents can hopefully know what to expect and when.

Data is sent by the drones to a central database. A model of the flow of the flood water will be built so as to aid prediction of any flash flooding. It is proposed that about 10 drones will be required to automatically monitor the flood waters. The drones will be dropped in the area of the storm or torrential rainfall, and if they hit flood waters, will be carried away on the current. Each drone will have a wireless sensor that can replay information to the central database.

Source: New Scientist

Photo: AR Drone Parrot (for illustration only)

One thought on “Drones and Flood Warnings

  1. If there isn’t a better way that can send flood warnings out then this could be a great thing.

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