DroNepal recently conducted several hydropower mapping projects in remotes areas of rural Nepal to test the potential and feasibility of using drones for surveying.
Located between India and China, Nepal is planning to develop hydroelectric dams to help power its economy and export electricity to neighboring countries. Nepal’s Department of Electricity Development has issued licenses to nearly 400 private companies for surveys and electrical generation projects.
Last year, DroNepal was named the winner of WeRobotics’ first Business Incubation Program. The company received $75,000 to study the use of drones in mapping and surveying hydroelectric facilities in remote areas of Nepal’s difficult topography.
WeRobotics operates a global network of labs to accelerate and scale the impact of humanitarian aid, global development and environmental protection efforts using drones and other robotic solutions. The organization has offices in Wilmington, Delaware, and Geneva, Switzerland. Over the past three years, WeRobotics has conducted dozens of aerial robotics and training missions internationally.
According to DroNepal, there’s great potential for drone-based survey work in Nepal because clients need accurate data and visualization materials for their hydropower projects. The company said its clients also need better methodologies to meet data-accuracy requirements.
One of the areas surveyed using drones was the in the vicinity of the Hairabkunda Khola Hydropower Station where a number of hydropower facilities were heavily damaged or destroyed by an earthquake in 2015. DroNepal completed survey work that will be used to help reconstruct hydropower generation in the area.
Other areas surveyed by DroNepal were the Liping Khola, Kalinchowk, Hongu Khola and Lukla hydropower stations. In one instance, the amount of time needed to complete topographical surveying using a drone was reduced from one week to two days.
DroNepal said the construction of a hydropower station requires different types of land surveying work, including: feasibility reconnaissance surveys for preliminary planning; geological and environmental surveys; access road surveys; detailed topographical construction surveys; and follow-up surveys during construction.
The company said drones are especially useful for mapping and surveying in Nepal because the majority of areas where hydropower facilities are located can be obscured by vegetation, trees and heavy forest. In such cases, drones can provide topographical information such as digital surface models and contour maps.
DroNepal noted that data capture is complicated in some regions of Nepal because of poor GPS signals—especially when a river is bordered by hills on both sides. This requires manual pre-flights to determine the maximum distance a drone can fly without losing the GPS signal.