GMW benefits from innovative drone usage

Friday 25 August, 2023

Goulburn-Murray Water (GMW) is exploring new ways of using drone technology to help create efficiencies and operate more safely.

The water corporation has previously used aerial drones for mapping channels and detecting weeds but has recently started to expand its use of them.

An underwater drone was recently used to inspect the trash rack and bulkhead at Lake William Hovell.

Trash racks are grates that prevent debris from entering outlets where it can cause damage or blockages. Bulkheads cover the outlet to stop the water altogether, usually to enable maintenance works to be undertaken.

Water Storage Services acting general manager Shayne Lowe said there were several benefits to using the drone for inspections such as the one at Lake William Hovell.

“We have a lot of critical infrastructure at our storages that is underwater but still needs to be routinely inspected,” he said.

“Underwater inspections have previously required us to hire specially trained divers. In many of these instances, we will now be able to have staff who have been trained to use the drone undertake the inspections instead.

“This is a great outcome for GMW, as using the drone will not only reduce the cost of these inspections but will enable us to be more flexible with the timing of our inspections, and also improve safety.

“The underwater drone can also be used in certain spaces where we would not be able to send divers, such as inside outlet towers.”

GMW has also been conducting trials using aerial drones to spray aquatic weeds.

This method has been tested at Lake Eppalock, Tullaroop Reservoir, Goulburn Weir, and several waterways.

GMW Survey Services manager Avni Bekirofski said these trials had shown promise.

“Our tests have shown there is a lot of potential to this method of treating weeds, particularly in areas that are otherwise difficult to access,” he said.

“Over the course of several trials, we have learned a lot and managed to refine our approach; with some of the latest tests, we have taken days to treat an area that would usually take weeks.

“Innovations such as this can create significant efficiencies, and it is ultimately the customers who benefit from this, so it is fantastic to see the business embracing these advancements.”