Dec 21 2018

Drones Search Irrigation Water for Contamination

Farmers are required by law to test their irrigation water for dangerous E. coli, but levels of the bacteria can vary across a pond or reservoir, making current testing methods unreliable. Researchers from the U.S. Department of Agriculture are examining irrigation ponds with drones, hoping to come up with a new standard for ensuring that water is safe to use on crops.

If you enjoyed this video, check out the other videos in our Feds in the Field series:


    Billie Griffith, Biological Technician/Drone Pilot, Agricultural Research Service/USDA

    Matthew Stocker, Research Associate, Agricultural Research Service/USDA

    Yakov Pachepsky, Soil Scientist, Agricultural Research Service/USDA

    Jaclyn Smith, Biological Technician, Agricultural Research Service/USDA

Video Highlights

  • Farmers testing their irrigation water for E. coli can come up with varying results depending on where in the water the test was done, leaving them unable to tell if their water is clean.
  • The USDA is using drones to examine irrigation water, hoping to create standardized and reliable ways to test water for E. coli and other dangerous bacteria.
  • The drones may be able to spot biological signatures in the water that can be a tipoff to the presence of E. coli, making the farmers’ job simpler.