The tiny boat reducing flood risk

Dean Goodison | 23 Apr 2015 | Comments

As technology surges run their course, it’s sometimes hard to imagine the next big breakthrough. But time and time again, new tools are developed that deliver greater accuracy and scope, help us get to places that were previously unreachable, and better visualize and communicate the results. Sometimes even small advancements can help us take giant leaps ahead if we find the right ways to apply them.

This is very true in the world of surveying and mapping. Collecting data the traditional way can be costly and limits what can be done, but technology allows us to deliver more. GPS service, total station, 3D laser scanners, and LiDAR represent a handful of advancements to hit the survey and mapping industry over the last few decades. And soon drones and other advancements will shake up the industry.

While most people don’t realize how much they are personally impacted by surveying and mapping— beyond a dependency on Google maps—it really starts to hit home when it comes to flooding. By accurately mapping flood scenarios and identifying contributing issues, we can better define risk and reduce harm to people, property, and infrastructure.

Transporting the boat by river raft in the Upper Rogue River
This highly portable device is helping cover new ground in floodplain mapping

We recently employed a device that helped us to cover new ground in floodplain mapping and provide additional value to our clients. It also helped to keep our staff out of danger.

Our existing options were limited at a recent project to update and expand the floodplain mapping for the Upper Rogue River watershed in Jackson County, Oregon. With rocky, whitewater conditions and steep grades, the river was too dangerous for surveyors to wade through; and launching a traditional hydrographic survey boat was not possible.

We identified a hand-launched, remote-controlled hydrographic survey craft as the right tool for the job. The unassuming survey boat weighs in at less than 70 pounds, making it easy to transport to remote locations to collect bathymetric (underwater terrain) survey. Other models of the boat are available that gather additional data such as stream velocity measurements and water quality studies. Watch our video below to see the boat in action.

Transporting the boat by river raft in the Upper Rogue River
Transporting the boat by river raft in the Upper Rogue River

Using a river raft with the remote-controlled boat in tow, we floated downstream to our starting zone, and quickly set-up on the shore without having to risk putting our people in the water. In a fraction of the time of a traditional survey, 25 miles of in-stream survey was completed with resulting data points in greater definition than with traditional methods. Our survey information was then combined with LiDAR data to create a seamless terrain model. In the end, we were able to deliver a higher-quality product, under budget, and ahead of schedule for our client.

The best thing about new tools is that they can open up new possibilities and stir our imaginations. They remind us to not let ourselves be limited by traditional approaches and previous boundaries, but to keep searching out new and better solutions. That may come in the form of sourcing new tools, developing new approaches, or forging new partnerships with clients and vendors.

In seeking new solutions, we will inevitably find (or create) them.