25 May 2019

Drones buzz in to test water quality at Auckland beaches

10:13 pm on 25 May 2019

Drones will be buzzing around some of Auckland's beaches next summer, as the council ramps up its water quality testing.

Drone flying over the ocean

Photo: 123RF

Auckland Council said using drones instead of boats to collect water samples would reduce costs and improve logistics and efficiency.

Using drones would allow water testing further offshore, where swim events are often held.

At the moment, the council's Safeswim website only monitors water quality in knee-deep water. That has caused confusion with organisers and participants in ocean swim events.

Previous studies have indicated that while water at the shoreline is the poorest quality, it improves progressively as the water gets deeper.

But the question is often where the clean zone begins.

The drone would take cross-samples at various distances more frequently, enabling Safeswim to get a more accurate picture of the quality of water beyond the surf zone.

This would help tourist operators and swim event organisers make decisions about whether to hold their events if the shallows are indicating a high risk.

"Swim events are very popular across Auckland," Safeswim programme manager Nick Vigar said.

"We've worked with organisers of the programmes to understand how we could better support them.

"Technology should allow us to be able to build a reliable predictive model of the offshore water quality - potentially enabling swim events to continue without interruption even after rainfall."

Several swim events have been cancelled, because of poor water quality.

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs