The Salt River Project is vital to Arizona. The energy company provides the Valley with much-needed water using 131 miles of canals and 1000 miles of laterals and ditches, according to the SRP website.
With this vast amount of infrastructure to monitor and take care of, it’s proven difficult to keep the canals clean. This is where Arizona State University researchers jumped in, working with the company to develop a device known as a hexacopter, according to the State Press. This device is an easily operated drone built with six rotors as well as “graspers” that can collect water samples from the canals.
Creating a drone that can reach faraway or hard-to-reach canal locations makes SRP’s job much more manageable. Instead of having to send teams out to manually collect samples, the drone can easily zip in and out of a job, saving SRP time and money.
SRP presented its problem a year ago in a meeting where it asked for solutions to make remote canal locations easier to reach. Researchers from ASU stepped up and worked with SRP from the very beginning to create a device that was made to fit this purpose, rather than proposing the use of an already developed drone. According to the State Press, an ASU assistant professor said that commercially available drones would not be up to the task regarding payload, battery level, and distance.
The same professor said that while a prototype of the drone has been built, there are many more months full of improvements to be made before the project is considered complete. The team is working on increasing distance and battery level, making the drone better at crash avoidance and giving it the ability to land on water.
If this partnership is successful and results in a game-changing new drone, we may be seeing the work of ASU researchers flying over canals across the country.