GN initiative to use drones for drainage, infrastructure planning
The aerial drone mapping project has received $1.1 million for the 2023 fiscal year
Engineers and land planners are using drones to collect data that will help them plan building projects in places with good water drainage.
“Thawing permafrost [creates] problems for buildings on top of it,” said William Patch, director for planning and lands with the Department of Community and Government Services, the department responsible for the mapping project.
“We want the water to move, maintain its energy so it doesn’t stop and seep into the ground, and keep going until it all goes out into local water source.”
The drones will collect high-resolution images of the land surrounding communities and those images will be used to create three-dimensional digital elevation models of the land surface.
The 3D models will help experts determine how runoff from thawing permafrost impacts buildings and roads and how it may affect new construction in the communities.
In the past, Patch said engineers went into communities and looked at drainage infrastructure such as ditches and culverts to check their conditions.
They also often used satellite imagery to collect information about community drainage systems. However, these would provide data from specific locations within a community rather than an overall image.
Using drones can be up to three or four times more expensive than using satellites, the images they collect are more detailed and of higher resolution.
“A lot of community drainage is very shallow and hard to see unless you are looking specifically for them,” he said.
“Satellite imagery never picks them up.”
Patch said the GN has so far worked with the community of Gjoa Haven on the project. The cost was over $150,000 and included aerial drone imagery, creating a master drainage plan and a geotechnical plan with construction recommendations. That total will differ for each community because CGS works with different consultants, planners and engineers in every location.
Organizers hope to map other communities this summer. The Department of Community and Government Services has received $1.1 million in total for this fiscal year — $500,000 from Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada and $600,000 from Natural Resources Canada — in order to do so.
The funding is a one-time grant, Patch noted, and future drone mapping will require more funding, which his department is looking into. Patch said the department has not worked out a total cost to map every community.
CGS Minister David Joanasie, who announced the project in the legislative assembly on May 25, said, “by creating detailed maps of town sites, floodplains, and drainage systems, communities will be able to make informed decisions about the placement of buildings and infrastructure, manage flood risks, and protect their permafrost soils.”
For Patch, the aerial drone mapping project is “really about making our communities resilient in the face of climate change.”
“What happens is that all our models will be used for a variety of other climate change studies, including drainage planning, geotechnical and floodplain mapping,” he said.
“So that we can be confident that the community will be able to thrive.”