Drones help researchers get better look at groundwater contamination

Wisconsin State Farmer
A drone flies over a spring in Fitchburg, Wis. as the project to evaluate groundwater continues.

University of Wisconsin-Madison researchers are developing new techniques to evaluate groundwater contamination using drones to get a bird's eye view.

Hydroecologist David Hart and licensed drone operator Grace Graham are using infrared data captured by drones to protect groundwater and improve the state's drinking water quality. Graham is a part of the Wisconsin Geological & Natural History Survey, a limb of the UW Division of Extension.

The infrared data helps them detect temperature changes via soil thickness, which is much more difficult to do by hand. The goal is to prevent groundwater contamination on farms due to runoff and fertilizers. The pair is conducting most of their research in Kewaunee County on the northeastern end of the state, where groundwater contamination is a prominent issue.

The Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection is funding the research. Eos, the news site of the American Geophysical Union, has written a feature story on the project.