Environmental Laboratory

How Can Technology Be Used to Prevent Environmental Disasters?

Jan 02 2016 Read 2423 Times

In today’s modern age of Smartphones, tablets and laptops, it seems there’s nothing technology can’t do. Whether it’s locating the nearest restaurant in a remote town in Kyrgyzstan, translating said restaurant’s menu into English using the camera or talking with your family thousands of miles away while you eat, the advance of technology has made our lives easier in every aspect.

This applies to our planet, as well. A plethora of modern emerging technologies are dedicated to monitoring climate and meteorological patterns, improving efficiency and response times and actually preventing natural disasters from occurring in the first place. Sceptical? Read on to find out about three unique innovations (dealing specifically with water-based solutions) which can help the environment through the use of artificial intelligence and technology.

The Evolution of Precipitation Monitoring

According to PreventionWeb, floods claimed the lives of 195,843 people between the years of 1980 and 2008 worldwide. During this 20 year period, an average of 6,753 people were killed annually and almost 100,000,000 were affected by the disaster every year.

Clearly, predicting when and where a flood is expected to take place will allow people more time to evacuate and take precautionary measures. The evolution of rain monitoring over the years has allowed us a more accurate overview of coming precipitation than ever before, meaning we can truly be prepared for torrential rain.

Alleviating Droughts

From too much water to too little of it – droughts can be even more deadly than floods, since they lead directly to famine and dehydration. Indeed, over the same 20 year period outlined above, droughts claimed the lives of 558,565 people, with an average of 19,261 people killed every year.

New technologies for large-scale evapotranspiration measurements are allowing us to document better than ever before how water can escape from supplies and reservoirs through evaporation and transpiration. Such knowledge allows us to plan better for the eventuality of droughts, directing resources as and when they are needed and avoiding the most severe consequences of such phenomenon.

Conservation through Innovation

Conservation of river ways and streams continue to pose a challenge for local authorities, particularly in the case of the Ottawa River in Canada. Experts identified three key issues: a dearth of human agents able to respond to distress and disaster calls from the public, time-consuming bureaucracy and legislation related to the conservation of the waterway and the difficulties of accessing remote and hard-to-reach stretches of the river.

Two students from the University of Toronto (a graduate and a PhD candidate) created Drone River in response to the challenge. Their project worked on three fronts. Firstly, a centralised, computerised database collates data from calls and social media, identifying potential problems. Secondly, a network of monitors distributed along the river identify problems on the ground. And finally, a team of drones patrol the river to take up-close pictures and videos of the problem area and collect samples.

In this way, Drone River neatly circumvents the manpower problem and overcomes the challenge of ensuring conservation of the Ottawa River for years to come.

Image Source: Ottawa River
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