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SA Water’s Riverland team is utilising drone technology to improve operational efficiency, customer experience and enable greater safety outcomes.

The utility is maturing its drone capability and progressively using the technology at more of its water and wastewater facilities. SA Water has seven licensed drone pilots, one of which is based in Berri.

SA Water General Manager of Business Services, Jamie Hollamby, said the popular technology enables a safer working environment for SA Water’s people.

“Inspecting our infrastructure is critical to ensuring we continue to deliver reliable services for our customers, but due to their size or location, some parts of our sites can be difficult to access,” Mr Hollamby said.

“The safety and wellbeing of our people is always paramount, and as a safer alternative to climbing high ladders and tanks in working environments, we’re using drones to help get these important jobs done.

“Drones enable us to remotely view and film the condition of structures, such as outlet towers and tunnels, providing close-up, high-quality images, even in the dark, and when we need to see every little bit of these large structures, it comes in handy.”

As well as eliminating safety risks by removing the person from a particular situation, the use of drones is reducing the time taken to complete tasks which, in turn, is reducing operational costs.

Along with asset inspections, SA Water’s two fixed-wing and four multirotor drones are taking flight to capture aerial and thermal photography as well as videography to provide greater perspective to large-scale ground operations, assess environmental health and evolution over time, and monitor the progress of capital projects.

This includes a recent survey of 40kms of shoreline of Lake Victoria, north-east of Renmark. This entailed taking more than 20,000 photos and producing surface and vegetation comparisons to determine shoreline stability and monitor yearly changes.

Previously, SA Water’s Riverland team have captured aerial photography of its locks and weirs situated along the River Murray to assist condition inspections, as well as video transects to help monitor the health of floodplain vegetation near Loxton and Waikerie.

“As we continue to develop and embed the capability, we’re learning more each day about the various applications and benefits of drones,” Mr Hollamby said.

“In 2016, we started with two drone pilots and we’re striving to continue finessing our capability, and aim to have 20 of our people across the business trained as licensed pilots by the end of 2020.”

Charlotte Pordage is Editor of Utility magazine, a position she has held since November 2018. She joined the team as an Associate Editor in October 2017, after sharpening her writing and editing skills across a range of print and digital publications. Charlotte graduated from Royal Holloway, University of London, in 2011 with joint honours in English and Latin. When she's not putting together Australia's only dedicated utility magazine, she can usually be found riding her horse or curled up with a good book.

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