A first as water company use drones to spot nesting birds

Anglian Water has deployed thermal imaging drones in rural Lincolnshire to protect wildlife.

Anglian Water using drones to spot nesting birds on the Ancaster water pipeline route. EMN-210623-103521001
Anglian Water using drones to spot nesting birds on the Ancaster water pipeline route. EMN-210623-103521001

Staff at the water company are currently in the Navenby area using thermal imaging drones in a bid to protect birds in rural areas as part of their environmental assessments along the route of a new 24km pipeline between Lincoln and Grantham, and it is the first time they have been used by a water company in this way.

Cutting-edge drones are flying special night-time missions to allow construction teams to locate and protect nesting birds along the route of the brand-new water pipeline, so they can be protected and are not disturbed by the construction work.

The project is part of Anglian Water’s new £400 million strategic pipeline which will secure future water supplies through the installation of hundreds of kilometers of interconnecting pipelines across the east of England.

Anglian Water operates in the driest part of the UK, meaning future water scarcity is the biggest challenge the company faces. Ultimately the strategic pipeline will allow water to be moved from areas of surplus in north Lincolnshire to areas of deficit in the south and east of the region, via new and existing pipelines. It is the biggest water infrastructure project in generations – without it, the East would face a water deficit of millions of litres of water a day.

Before any scheme begins Anglian Water undertake robust environmental and ecological surveys to ensure there is no detrimental impact on the surrounding wildlife. All wild birds, their nests and eggs are protected by law. Drones are an alternative way of carrying out these vital surveys as they can find nests faster and more accurately.

Andrew Weston, part of the ecology team who devised the plan to use drones, said: “The thermal cameras check for heat signatures of ground-nesting birds. Once they’re found they are cordoned off so the workers laying the pipes, who are often using big equipment such as diggers, avoid the area and do not disturb the birds. The drones fly at night, usually about 3am, as that is the best time to locate any nests.”