Besides dikes, the Netherlands are well known for its many lakes and rivers. It is difficult and labor intensive to properly monitor them all, even though many applications beg for high-res and high-frequency data. These applications include swimming water safety, industrial wastewater management, drinking water management, etc.

In a new collaboration between the MAVLab, RijksWaterstaat and CytoBuoy we are developing a new type of drone: the Pelican drone. During the kick-off presentation last week, we coincidentally won the platform-WOW first prize for the most innovative water-management project.


The goal of this project is to create a system that can autonomously monitor water quality in real time. We are developing a drone that can take a water sample from the water’s surface, and later also from below the surface. The sample is delivered to a CytoSense flow-cytometer, which measures, discriminates and classifies particles such as algae and bacteria. The CytoSense can be mounted on a mobile (e.g. a car) or fixed setup (e.g. a buoy), and does it’s job autonomous. The combined system can, for instance, be used for blue algae early warning system.

Remote Sensing

The drone-sample locations can be pre-specified, or in future research, automatically determined on the basis of drone sensory. By using a hyper-spectral camera on the drone, we can look at the colors of the water, and determine where we need to sample to get a complete view of the ecosystem. The envisioned system will greatly improve the water quality monitoring standard while reducing costs compared to the status quo.