The Role of Aerial Data in Water and Land Pollution Detection and Prevention

Modern infrastructure comes with risks. Pipelines carry lifesaving resources like oil and gas to power cities, towns, hospitals, schools, and homes. The transportation of these substances provides lifesaving energy like heat and light, but an accident can leak poison into the surrounding environment. Once thought to be inevitable, we can now avoid such occurrences thanks to modern technological solutions like aerial data drones, which mitigate risks and prevent pipeline disasters.

There’s a dire need for emerging environmental monitoring solutions like aerial systems. The U.S. reported 578 pipeline incidents of leaks, damage, injury, fires, or explosions in 2020 alone. The total cost of these incidences was $339.72 million. Additionally, the same year, approximately 194 million pounds of Toxics Release Inventory (TRI)-listed chemicals leaked into U.S. water bodies.

We don’t yet know what the long-term environmental and health impacts of these pipeline incidents and chemical releases will be, although they’ll likely be catastrophic. However, the introduction of aerial data capture and analytics is creating new ways for oil and gas companies to proactively identify problems and prevent future incidents.

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The Main Culprits — Common Water and Land Pollutants

The symbiotic nature of the environment means no level of pollution happens in isolation. For instance, degradation of the land trickles into the ocean and seeps into the groundwater, which supplies 50% of the global urban population with fresh water.

The primary drivers of cyclical land pollution are deforestation, mining, intensive agriculture, industry, construction, nuclear waste, and landfills. These human activities disrupt natural ecosystems and pump chemicals, gas, and plastic pollution into the environment.

One of the most pressing threats to humanity is soil contamination. According to a United Nations report on soil pollution, 95% of the food we consume comes from the soil. However, contaminants in the soil are impacting the ability to produce safe and sufficient food. This poses an obvious and existential threat to humanity. What’s more, environmental disruption can have additional far-reaching consequences, such as toxic runoff spreading through water supplies.

Of course, the same industries that disrupt land ecosystems are tied to the major causes of water pollution. For instance, companies are increasingly depositing solid waste in bodies of water. Sewage processing spreads pathogens through water supplies. Questionable agriculture and mining practices release toxic chemicals like pesticides or carcinogenic, radioactive, and mutagenic materials through process facilities and surface runoff.

Clearly, some industrial, agricultural, and energy-producing practices are unsustainable—they’re already creating negative feedback loops within ecosystems. However, these practices are also driving human progress and sustaining modern comforts. The maintenance of advanced societies depends on the continuation of many of these industrial efforts. So, the path forward is to find a way to continue these efforts while reducing their environmental impacts.

How Aerial Monitoring Helps Collect Relevant Data

The need for solutions that can make essential industries like agriculture, energy production, and resource transportation sustainable has yielded some astonishing technology. For example, forward-thinking oil and gas companies are adopting unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to monitor land and water pollution.

Advanced technologies such as UAVs, drones, satellites, and other airborne devices can perform aerial data capture to generate detailed geographical mapping. These aerial systems are equipped with sensors and high-resolution imaging techniques. As such, they can track pollutants through granular and detailed analysis of everything from soil health scans to geomorphic changes in landscapes.

Artificial intelligence (AI) technology further enhances aerial data capture by analyzing changes in environments and pinpointing causes. This enables companies to effectively respond to potential hazards before they cause irreparable damage by developing targeted mitigation and remediation strategies.

Let’s take a specific example related to pipelines. Damage is inevitable. But prior to aerial data capture, continuously monitoring an extensive network was practically impossible. Now, UAVs equipped with finite element method (FEM) modeling are proving capable of effectively monitoring infrastructure damage. Stress analysis on the model can help the technology predict the behavior of real cracked structures.

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Detection, Mitigation, and Future Prevention

Aerial data has a wide range of uses for environmental conservation, including specific capabilities that aid in the detection, mitigation, and prevention of both land and water pollution. However, to better understand the scope of the solution, let’s examine a few of the most impactful use cases for aerial environmental monitoring.

As discussed earlier, aerial systems can monitor infrastructure at a granular level to detect and audit structural damage. One of the most critical areas where this technology can be applied is dam leakages. Drones can find cracks and assess damage to decrease response time and reduce the risk of a potentially destructive incident.

Drones can also detect alterations in water flow or composition, which empowers companies to resolve leaks or other potential issues early on. This technology is notably impactful in the effort to reduce the amount of plastic pollution entering the water supply.

Aerial data can be used to track changes in environmental factors like landscape and soil composition to provide detailed information on industry impacts. The aggregate collected data can convey a comprehensive picture of how land ecosystems respond to industrial activity. What’s more, companies can use the technology to monitor the progression of already contaminated areas specifically.

Source: SkyX

Partnering with an Aerial Data Service

The degradation of the environment has reached a critical point, demanding a humanitarian response to the damage. Ultimately, companies are providing essential resources, and industry can’t be interrupted without endangering millions of people. So, the answer will be found in technological solutions that can empower sustainable production across sectors.

SkyX is at the forefront of aerial data acquisition. In just a matter of hours, its technology can perform detailed surveys that would otherwise take a team weeks to complete. This enables greater oversight of environmental impacts. Oil and gas companies can use SkyX’s state-of-the-art drones to capture data quickly and perform sophisticated analysis of information sets.

If you’re ready to lessen your company’s ecological footprint, reach out and book a demo with SkyX today.

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