New drone provides fresh approach for Goulburn-Murray Water

Tuesday 17 April, 2018

Drone technology is helping Goulburn-Murray Water (GMW) carry out vital project work in new and innovative ways never used previously.

GMW received its second drone – the DJI Matrice 210 RTK – in late February and it has been all hands on deck since then as GMW’s accredited drone pilots familiarise themselves with the new equipment.

The drone enables GMW to improve its awareness and understanding of asset condition, which improves safety and reduces costs. The drone initiative is a cost-effective means of supporting GMW’s core business and improving services to customers.

The DJI Matrice 210 RTK can fly up to 120m above ground and is GPS-equipped. It will be used to inspect towers, drains, channels and other pieces of irrigation infrastructure. It will also be used throughout various phases of construction projects.

 “It can take video, photos and make 3D models of an area,” Technical Officer Surveys Peter Gill said. “It will allow for more precise work.”

It has three cameras options – a thermal camera, a camera with 30x optical zoom and an RGB camera (no zoom) used for surveying. The thermal imaging camera will allow staff to see hot spots within infrastructure.

“When we fly the drone, there is a controller and usually a spotter too,” Mr Gill said. “The spotter will keep an eye out for members of the public in the vicinity, predatory animals, birds and anything that could interfere with the drone flight. Recently we had a drone encounter a swarm of bees."

GMW has seven staff qualified to fly the drone – which includes staff from the Survey Services Team and the Electrical and Mechanical Team. The drone pilot’s licences are accredited by CASA (Civil Aviation Safety Authority) after completion of a week-long training program, which included theory and practical sessions.

Survey Services Manager Glenn Collins said he expected the new drone to quickly become a go-to tool for staff.

“It will be GMW’s specialist drone, while the first one will be our general purpose drone.

“We initially had one to two drone pilots and then realised we needed more. We need to be able to deploy drones quickly for a range of purposes.”

Mr Collins said the survey team has built confidence across the business and there is a high demand for digital data captured by drones at present.

"This new piece of equipment provides us with extra capabilities including mapping and thermal imagery,” he said.

A rigorous compliance and legal procedure has also been followed by GMW while acquiring the drone.

“GMW is CASA compliant as an authority,” Mr Collins said. “We’ve also carefully considered the privacy impact of its use and ensuring we do the right thing by members of the public.”

Managing Director Pat Lennon said the drone capability opened up some exciting opportunities for the water authority which were still being explored.

“There may be opportunities in the future for GMW to earn external revenue from the drone,” he said.

  Fast Facts – DJI Matrice 210RTK

  • 15-20 minute flight time
  • Maximum 6.14kg take-off weight
  • Three camera options – a thermal camera, a camera with 30x optical zoom and an RGB camera (no zoom) used for surveying.
  • Has a robust flight autonomy system with a total of seven sensors. Its Forward Vision System is capable of detecting obstacles up to 30 meters ahead, while the upward facing infrared sensors can sense obstacles within a five-meter range. A downward facing vision positioning system enables precision hovering and landing.
  • Closed-shell body which provides added portability, ease-of-use and ruggedness.
  • Can be used in light rain weather conditions – less than 10mm per hour rainfall
  • Notifies the user of its battery status.