Innovative trial to boost Wimmera flood planning

Parts of Horsham - including this property in Pryors Road - were underwater during floods in 2011.
Parts of Horsham - including this property in Pryors Road - were underwater during floods in 2011.

WIMMERA Catchment Management Authority will break new ground in Horsham this week when it trials drone technology as a way to improve flood planning.

The authority hopes to fly drones over the city on Tuesday, to test if the technology can offer more detailed data than traditional survey methods.

These methods record information such as floor levels, while drones have the ability to also record altitude measurements and topography data.

The authority’s floodplain management team leader Paul Fennell said drones provided a way to capture accurate three-dimensional detail in ways never seen before.

“We are always on the lookout for new technology to improve our flood data. The more data we have, the better understanding we have of where water is likely to go during a flood,” he said.

“Then we can put emergency plans and the like in place should the water ever get that high.

“Historically we’ve used surveyors to capture floor level information for flood planning, which can be laborious, time-consuming and a significant cost.

“Drone technology records data we can view similar to Google Street View, but the key difference is that we can measure the height of all points that we can see.

“We've seen this technology and similar things at conferences, and we've been looking to see if we could trial it here and whether it will help us.”

The authority is working with a Melbourne-based firm as well as Horsham Rural City Council and the Civil Aviation Safety Authority for the trial.

Mr Fennell said the trial would concentrate on a small area of the city.

“We're looking at an area that will give us as many different topographical features as possible, so places like the Wotonga Basin, the botanic gardens and streets in and around those areas, and the Wimmera River of course,” he said.

“We want to see accuracy down to around the 15mm mark, particularly in relation to the height measurements.

“We will then ascertain if we can use these drones for data that we can easily overlay onto flood maps.

“Like any trial, if it’s successful we’ll be looking for funding to roll it out further.”

Mr Fennell said weather would determine if the trial went ahead on Tuesday or needed to be rescheduled.