Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UASs), also known as drones or UAVs, have entered the mainstream as part of the latest development in electronics as their popularity continues to expand across the world. While their uses are varied, many agencies are looking at the aircraft systems as a component to support their respective organization and mission. In LDEQ’s case, the three UASs currently employed by the department have proven to be vital additions to the environmental protection mission. A recent video produced by LDEQ’s Communications section touches on the use of the UAS, its capabilities and its critical role in protecting Louisiana’s unique environment.
As demonstrated by Jason Smith, manager for LDEQ’s Unmanned Aircraft Systems Program, the UAS has a wide array of capabilities that allow it to view areas that are difficult to access by foot, boat, car or all-terrain vehicle.
The department’s uses for the UAS are varied. Recently, one was deployed to fly over a section of the Mississippi River to document an oil spill that occurred near the French Quarter. Another time, a UAS allowed responders to view a flooded field in St. Landry Parish. In these instances, the UAS records the event in both still images and video which can be used for environmental protection and emergency response tasks.
Because of this unique aerial advantage, UASs are currently being utilized in nearly every facet of the department’s mission. This includes surveillance, enforcement, permit support documentation, waste and landfill inspections, illegal dumping of chemicals, oil or waste tires, as well as general emergency response functions involving facility discharges, trail derailments, truck accidents, oil spills and investigations of unusual events.
UASs are some of the latest instruments available in LDEQ’s environmental protection mission. Used in a variety of situations, the aircraft are commonly used for emergency response situations where an oil or chemical spill has taken place, or where flooding or fire prevents the safe passage of a boat or vehicle into the site to assess the conditions.
Additional UASs are on the horizon, and their future capabilities are expected to include a thermal camera, air monitoring and air sampling functions, a multispectral camera, optical gas imaging (for detection of leaks) and LIDAR (Light Detection and Ranging).
“The UAS gives us a unique advantage in that we can deploy the aircraft to an array of locations to cover an array of environmental concerns,” Smith said. “For example, UAS footage from a recent flood event in St. Landry Parish involving an oil tank gave the department that extra oversight capability that allowed us to get an aerial view as to the extent of the flooding. This played a key role in the subsequent investigation.”
To view a video on the operation of the UAS, please visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QtO-PaOz4q0 .