Drones take to the sky over Lake Ontario

The USGS is using drones to help map lake levels

FILE - This Friday, Sept. 6, 2013, file photo shows a drone at a testing site in Lincoln, Neb. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik, File)

GREECE, N.Y. (WIVB) —Homeowners along the Lake Ontario shoreline have been greatly impacted due to flooding. Everything from beach and coastal erosion to their sewer systems at risk of failing, have been a concern. FEMA and New York State are working together to get a better picture of current water levels and the damage that’s been caused. And they’re doing it in a nontraditional way. They’re using drones.

It’s a huge advantage to see Lake Ontario from a bird’s eye view, Drones are making that possible along the waterfront. Oceanographer Christopher Sherwood works for the United States Geological Survey or USGS. He said, “Drones allow us to make super accurate maps.”

Accuracy of these maps are what will give scientists a one up over Mother Nature. But conditions have to be just right in order to receive the efficiency the government is hoping for. Sherwood said, “In best cases, when we’ve got good light and good ground control, we make a map that has pixels of 3 1/2 cm on the ground.”

And if that resolution doesn’t impress you, the amount of pictures the drone takes will. It can snap between 50 and 100 photos per minute! He shared, “These will be kind of a reference point for looking to see what happens after the lake levels fall and we see what gets revealed from that.”

The best part is, the photos can be taken weeks or even months after the water recedes.

The images aren’t available for viewing yet, but once they are, they will be used by national, state, and local government agencies. Sherwood said, “Hopefully planners will be able to make use of these super accurate maps and FEMA will be able to use them to help evaluate some of the damage without actually going door to door and can just look at the images.”

All of the information from the latest run is expected to be available in the fall.

The images available from the drone will be very useful in helping figure out just how extensive coastal erosion has been out on the Lake Ontario shoreline, but still another group of scientists in New York State have a different idea. They’re working to install instruments above the water. These will be able to send updated lake levels every 6 minutes to those interested.

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