Emergency flood planning and management using unmanned aerial systems

Lead Research Organisation: University of Exeter
Department Name: Engineering

Abstract

Some 5 million people live in flood risk areas in England and Wales, with one in six homes at risk of flooding. In India, similar risks are present: over 40 million hectares (12% of India's land mass) are prone to flooding and river erosion. In this century, the economic losses resulting from damage caused by flooding far outweigh the costs associated with other natural disasters ($21bn in losses from 27 instances in the UK, and $39bn in losses from 128 instances in India). Furthermore, both the frequency and intensity of pluvial and fluvial flooding is expected to increase over time due to climate change - increasing flood risk, financial loss and (human) fatalities. The UK has well-developed emergency planning processes and procedures, and yet there have been a number of recent cases of flooding where the emergency evacuation process has been stretched to its limits and beyond (e.g. Cockermouth and Carlisle). Earlier this year, the Indian Parliament put forward a national action plan under the Disaster Management Act with the aim of substantially decreasing the loss of life, livelihoods and assets, by improving the country's response to disasters. The plan highlights the urgent need for improved (predictive) warning, risk and threat identification and policy assessment, evacuation planning, data collection, information dissemination, cooperation and effective management of the relief operation. At the heart of the management of these issues is developing a good knowledge of the underlying communities and their infrastructure and the state of these endangered systems at critical times, particularly during the onset and development of the flooding event. The deployment and management of unmanned aerial systems (either vertical take-off and landing quad-rotors or small fixed wing aircraft) and of their data product coupled with advanced model prediction capabilities would seem to be a challenging but promising way of supporting emergency planning and management and testing the predicted and actual effects of policy decisions.

The project focuses on using instrumented unmanned aerial systems (UASs) to collect and collate pertinent information about an unfolding flooding disaster. The relative ease with which UASs can be deployed (often hand launched) to assess damage across large areas provides emergency responders with the opportunity to assess the situation quickly, allowing the prioritisation of resources and their effective deployment where they are required. One aspect of the research will focus on addressing the challenges associated with flying UASs in such (non-ideal) situations: for example maintaining performance during adverse weather conditions, during intermittent loss of communication with the base station, overcoming the loss of operator visuals, providing the ability to recover the vehicle without a runway and avoiding potential collisions with unexpected obstacles within the flight domain.

The project will also consider how the data can be combined with accelerated flood inundation models to generate detailed evacuation plans, and to predict the nature and progress of the flooding to improve allocation of emergency resources, build community flood resilience, save lives and reduce economic damage. The strategy will take into account both the physicality of the flood event itself and the social structures which are subject to the flooding.

The concepts will be practically realised by the creation of a prototype decision support system to allow on-the-ground decision makers in the UK and India emergency coordination teams, or government agencies, to better understand the consequences of flooding to help them make timely and better informed decisions. We will also focus on engaging users and building capacity in India and the UK to integrate the use of UASs effectively into current flood response frameworks in a structured way to maximise the benefits they can provide.

Planned Impact

The novel decision support system (DSS) developed through our research will be of direct benefit to flood emergency planners and responders, UAS operators, trainers and educators engaged in tackling emergency situations. It will contribute significantly to socio-economic benefits in terms of: (1) protecting the ability of individuals and industries to carry out economic activity in the face of the rising frequency of flooding, and (2) as an avenue for economic activity based on the goods and services used and developed in the project. The engineering solutions developed will build resilience through preparedness and coping with the onset of flooding, and will build capacity as explicitly envisaged in India's National Disaster Management Plan as discussed in the project proposal.

A project web-site will be set up to showcase the work of the project and will have sections dedicated to the academic community, professional stakeholders and the wider community. Research project reports, stakeholder summaries, publications, and presentations will be made available for download. The usage statistics will be reviewed on a quarterly basis (in terms of number of visits, details on the location from where the web-page has been accessed, number of downloads, etc.) and used to inform and refine the impact management plans. At the end of the project, a lite version of the DSS and key data will be made freely available for the benefit of the scientific and user community. A user-focus report summarising the main findings and implications for practice will also be uploaded.

The capabilities of the UASs and the prototype DSS will be demonstrated to Indian stakeholders to give an understanding of its capabilities and limitations. The DSS will be with integrated with pre, intra and post flooding scenarios and offer the possibility for the system to be used for training and educating purposes.

Four workshops will be held on topics such as: resilience and flood preparedness (UK), application of unmanned aerial systems (India), emergency planning and resource allocation (UK), showcase and demonstration (India). The Indian workshops will be organised by IISc and IIITD and will engage with local officials and other relevant stakeholders in Bangalore, New Delhi and elsewhere. The showcase will be repeated in the UK. In addition a 3-day residential summer school will be run in Exeter for 40 year 12 students. The aim is to inspire and enthuse the next generation of scientists and engineers by introducing them to cutting-edge UAS technologies and a wide range of applications. This will used as a basis to develop their understanding of science, mathematics, and communication skills, and how these can be used to develop exciting technological advances.

Our key industrial partner in India is Tata Consultancy Services (TCS). They are an ideal partner in that they currently provide a Disaster Management Solution with services that include damage prediction and disaster preparation, post disaster work management, consumer communication, analytics and command centres. Currently, this solution does not include integration of UAS data and fast mathematical models with a representation of the underlying physical scenario. Other useful points of contact and collaboration with TCS including system integration, video analytics, UAS customisation and cloud robotics. The project can also strongly benefit from their experience in developing a technology platform that can disseminate crop-related information through mobile phones to farmers. A post-project extension of the DSS could see its application enhanced by facilitating communication of flood related information to communities before, during or after a flood event.

A user-focused report will be written in English and Hindi. This will distil the main findings and implications of the work for practice and will be written in a visually accessible style.
 
Description That the contribution of pluvial flooding should not be ignored, even in a catchment where fluvial flooding is the major cause of the flood damages. That pluvial flooding increased the overall number of affected properties by 25% in a test catchment. In addition, it increased the flood depths in a number of properties that were identified as being affected by fluvial flooding, in some cases by more than 50%. The importance of taking pluvial flooding into consideration in flood management and evacuation practices. How UAVs can be used in the preparation for and response to flood emergencies and application of our guidelines for their deployment before, during and after a flood event. Flood emergency routes can be developed prior to flooding based on rapid urban flood modelling. How these routes can be monitored by UAVs and potentially updated. How UAvs can fly and land under adverse weather conditions. How survivors can be identified during flood events.
Exploitation Route These results will be built upon by flood agencies in India as they look to prioritise resources for flood preparation and evacuation.
Sectors Construction,Environment,Government, Democracy and Justice,Transport

URL http://www.urbanfloodresilience.ac.uk/index.aspx
 
Description Development of a UAV deployment matrix as the basis for guidelines used to assist those involved in flood risk management activities, including emergency responders, incorporating a more strategic and targeted approach to the use of UAVs before, during and after flood events. These have been developed in collaboration with the Environment Agency in England, and have the potential to be translated into an Indian context.
First Year Of Impact 2020
Sector Environment
Impact Types Societal

 
Description Intelligent Dynamic Flood Response and Recovery Strategy (iD-FRe2S) PhD
Amount £132,576 (GBP)
Funding ID voucher 20000021 
Organisation WS Atkins 
Sector Private
Country United Kingdom
Start 06/2020 
End 06/2024
 
Description Arcadis 
Organisation Hyder Consulting
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution Possible secondment for researcher.
Collaborator Contribution Steering group membership
Impact Possible joint work with South West Water
Start Year 2014
 
Description Brigham Young 
Organisation Brigham Young University
Country United States 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Access to ongoing research project findings.
Collaborator Contribution Access to data and membership of Strategici Advisory Body
Impact None yet.
Start Year 2017
 
Description Environment Agency 
Organisation Environment Agency
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution Access to project findings.
Collaborator Contribution Access to data and expertise.
Impact No outputs/outcomes as yet.
Start Year 2017
 
Description General Aeronautics 
Organisation General Aeronautics
Country India 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution General Aeronautics, manufactures drones for various applications, and they are in dialogue with us to design and manufacture drones for flood relief operations.
Collaborator Contribution Presented at Workshop on Emergency Flood Planning and Management using Unmanned Aerial Vehicles held in Bangalore, 2019.
Impact Purchase of local equipment.
Start Year 2019
 
Description Google India 
Organisation Google
Department Research at Google
Country United States 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution Discussions with the Google India initiative which is interested in contributing to flood related disaster management specifically for India.
Collaborator Contribution Presented at workshop on Emergency Flood Planning and Management using Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, Bangalore 2019
Impact On-going discussion on global flood mapping and its application to developing countries.
Start Year 2019
 
Description India Flying Labs 
Organisation Flying Labs
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution India Flying Labs is a small, Indian NGO which works with flood affected people in India and uses drones for gathering information about flood affected areas. We have networked them into the academic community working in this field and other practitioners.
Collaborator Contribution Presented at our workshop on "Emergency Flood Planning and Management Using Unmanned Aerial Vehicles", September 18, 2019.
Impact Networking and support.
Start Year 2019
 
Description KSNDMA (India) 
Organisation Kerala State Disaster Management Authority
Country India 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution Subha Avinash, Karnataka State Natural Disaster Management Authority, Bangalore, India, attended the project management meeting held on September 17, 2019. She attended our workshop on "Emergency Flood Planning and Management Using Unmanned Aerial Vehicles", September 18, 2019.
Collaborator Contribution Partner was keen to make the best use of the results/ideas presented during project management meeting, on September 17, 2019. She expressed potential to incorporate such ideas into their flood preparedness and response plans and for the same, discussions are in progress between KSNDMA and the representatives of partner university - Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore.
Impact None yet.
Start Year 2019
 
Description Tata Consultancy 
Organisation Tata Consultancy Services
Country India 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution Access to technical development within project.
Collaborator Contribution Access to drone technology, expert input and advice, and data.
Impact None yet.
Start Year 2017
 
Description UNEP 
Organisation United Nations (UN)
Department United Nations Environment Programme
Country Kenya 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution Access to emerging project outputs and outcomes.
Collaborator Contribution Expertise and advice in Strategic Advisory Body.
Impact None so far.
Start Year 2017
 
Description Uni Nice 
Organisation University of Nice Sophia-Antipolis
Country France 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Access to research and emerging outcomes/outputs.
Collaborator Contribution Membership of Strategic Advisory Body.
Impact None so far.
Start Year 2017
 
Description Challenging application for UAVs 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact This workshop was organised by the project at IIIT - Delhi. The theme for the workshop was understanding different application domains for developing technologies, which can assist during different emergencies. Speakers were:
1. Dr. Pramod Maurya, Scientist, National Institute of Oceanography, Goa, India.
2. Animesh Prakash, Asistant Manager & Project Lead (India), Trans-Boundary Rivers of South Asia (TROSA), Kolkata, India.
3. Dipali Sharma, Director (organizational effectiveness), Action Aid, Delhi, India.
4. Kamesh Goyal, GD (A/C), CEMILAC, DRDO, Bangalore, India.
5. Prof. Santhosh Kumar, Director, SAARC Disaster Management Centre, NIDM, India.
6. Andrew Richman, Environmental Agency, UK.
7. Kaushik Das, Project Lead, TCS, Bangalore, India.
8. Dr. Sivakumar Rathinam, Associate Professor, TAMU, Texas, USA.

The aim was to highlight and building on the best and emerging technologies related to flood preparation in India.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description IUKWC's Third Grassroots Field Exposure Session & Second User Engagement Initiative 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact This was a workshop held in Bhopal, India entitled 'Building cross-sectoral collaborations to understand the dynamic interactions across the water-energy-food nexus' and run by the India-UK Water Center. The event was aimed at building links between academics in the UK and India and local practitioners.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://www.indiawaterportal.org/opportunities/open-call-participate-grassroots-field-exposure-sessi...
 
Description Invited speaker at conference - Developing the UK's Flood Resilience Forum 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact Talk contribution entitled "Developing the UK's Flood Resilience Forum| Technological Developments" on the 05/12/19. Participants were interested in knowing how the use of emerging technologies could contribute to flood resilience. Media participants were interested in following up the presentation with a further press release- see https://www.communitiesprepared.org.uk/2020/02/the-use-of-drone-technology-in-flood-emergency-response/ . This publication is being followed up by another Q&A press release for a different organisation (yet to be published).
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Marine Robotics School 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Intended purpose: The Marine Robotics School (12th Feb 2018 - 17th Feb 2018) intended to afford students, researchers, and systems developers a fast paced introduction to the core topics that must be mastered to design, build, and operate single and multiple cooperative vehicles for commercial and scientific missions, mainly in sea, but the concepts are applicable to missions in land and air. Outcomes & Impact: It was indeed extremely useful for the young and curious minds seeking to familiarize themselves with and pursue R&D activity in this exciting area of work. There were 90 people registered for the school. There is potential avenues for collaboration with NIO, Goa, India, which is a CSIR lab.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL http://www.nio.org/index/option/com_eventdisplay/task/view/tid/4/sid/24/eid/260
 
Description PostNote Misuse of Civilian Drones 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact Copied from web page
Drones (also known as unmanned aircraft) are flying systems that do not carry a pilot. As the technology has become cheaper and more sophisticated, the use of drones for recreational and commercial purposes has grown, with the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) reporting a significant increase in the number of permissions obtained for operating commercial drones in the UK. Despite their potential to reduce costs, improve efficiency and provide new services, drones may be misused accidentally or for malicious purposes. For example, reports of drone sightings at Gatwick Airport in December 2018 grounded around 1,000 flights for almost 36 hours, affecting more than 140,000 passengers. In 2018, the Government introduced new limits on where drones can be flown and new registration and education requirements for drone operators and pilots. In January 2020, the new Government introduced an Air Traffic Management and Unmanned Aircraft Bill to Parliament that included new police powers for enforcing aviation laws (such as the power to issue a fixed penalty notice for certain drone offences). This POSTnote looks at civilian drones and their applications, focusing on potential misuse and possible responses.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
URL https://researchbriefings.parliament.uk/ResearchBriefing/Summary/POST-PN-0610
 
Description Q&A web publication for communities prepared 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact As a result of a presentation provided at the "Developing the UK's Flood Resilience Forum | 5th December 2019", media participants requested further contribution to "Communities Prepared" via a Q&A press press relase/blog entlitled "The use of drone technology in flood emergency response".
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
URL https://www.communitiesprepared.org.uk/2020/02/the-use-of-drone-technology-in-flood-emergency-respon...
 
Description Talk contribution to conference/workshop - Flooding 2019: ensuring effective resilience 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact Talk contribution to the conference "Flooding 2019: Ensuring Effective Resilience, Management and Response Conference". The presentation was entliteld "Designing robust environmental monitoring programmes to better predict and prepare for flooding". Participants were interested to learn more about the use of drones for emergency response, flood extent mapping and impact assessment. The presentation targeted key challenges that need to be overcome for the uptake of the technology to take place.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
 
Description Talk contributuin to a two-day workshop in Lancaster University 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Talk contribution to the conference "UK Underwater - Data Driven Approaches to Communicating Flooding". This will take place in June 2020 so it is difficult to report further at this stage.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
URL https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/uk-underwater-data-driven-approaches-to-communicating-flooding-ticket...
 
Description UAV Workshop 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact A workshop on Emergency Flood Planning and Management using Unmanned Aerial Vehicles organised at IISc Bangalore woth 50+ attendees mainly from the local area. Included talks and posters generating interesting conversations. Several good contact were made with local businesses and state officials an these are reported separately.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019