DNRC in Montana Utilizing Drone and LiDAR Technology for Enhanced Understanding of Water Flow

On Wednesday, the Montana DNRC employed drone and Lidar technology to enhance their understanding of water flow in Boulder Creek. According to David Saba, a Hydrologist with the Montana Dept. of Natural Resources and Conservation, Lidar technology provides an advantage over photogrammetry because it can see through vegetation, which is essential when working around streams with lots of trees and plants.

The team used a drone to capture imagery of nearly 200 acres and one mile of creek, creating a topographical map using photographs and Lidar technology that bounces laser beams between the earth and the drone to create the map. This technology helps them better answer questions about water flow in the area. The DNRC first used this Lidar drone technology in September of the previous year, and the results were so impressive that they decided to continue using it for future projects. Boulder Creek is just one of many sites the DNRC crew plans to map using this technology.

The site has a gauging station to measure water height, which, combined with the drone data, provides additional information to help manage water rights and create policies related to water usage. Saba emphasized that understanding water availability and predicting future availability is crucial for making informed decisions about water usage in Montana. Although current drones with Lidar technology are cost-prohibitive for measuring river depth, the DNRC plans to continue using GPS surveying equipment for this purpose. The use of Lidar technology and drones has proven to be highly effective in mapping water resources, adding valuable information to traditional gauge measurements and paving the way for better water resource management practices in Montana.

By Sophia Gonzalez

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