Arad Metering Technologies, an Israeli based company, is proposing to monitor customer’s water consumption using battery-operated aerial drones. Israel has a high tech aerospace industry that pioneered the use of unmanned aerial drones for the military, and is a country that has a limited water resource, so it makes strange sense to use the high tech military gear to help conserve water. Detecting when there is a major water leak is important, as is ensuring people conserve, or even preventing people stealing increasingly precious water.
The World Bank estimates water wastage costs US$14 billion (€11 billion) a year worldwide and, in developing countries, the water lost to leaks and theft could potentially serve 200 million more people.
Arad has already installed wireless water meter systems in some of Israel's largest cities, such as Petach-Tikva near Tel-Aviv. Installing the 75,000 wireless water meters helped reduce water loss from 12% to 2% because leaks are detected almost instantaneously whereas before they were only revealed when a meter reader visited every 60 days to check the meter. Now a vehicle drives around and collects the water usage information, or the data is sent via a wide area wireless network back to the monitoring station. In addition to conserving water, this has reduced costs for both the utility and consumer.
Arad's water meters have 3G wireless technology built in, a microcontroller, and 20-year lifetime batteries. Every 11 to 30 seconds the system transmits data, to be received by the travelling data collection vehicle or fixed wide area wireless network.
Taking data collection one step further, Arad's drones will wirelessly read the water-meter system to detect leakage or, in irrigation systems, detect drought. The drone is particularly good at collecting data from a large geographic area, and avoids having to send people to read meters or installing a high power wireless network in what may be a sparsely populated area.
Arad has already used this wireless technology in the United States, Brazil, China, India, and Russia with plans to wirelessly monitor other municipal infrastructure services such as traffic lights and security-camera networks.
Saving water is a great service, as is delivering water to those unable to have this life saving necessity close to hand, and using the electric powered drones for monitoring over large areas is likely to save time, resources, money and eliminate greenhouse gases (a lot less driving). However, adding yet more wireless broadcasting to an already increasingly radiation filled living space, may not be the best plan. Rather than constantly transmitting, maybe their wireless system could be in receive-only mode, until the drone contacts it, and then send the data, minimizing the wireless broadcasting.