Skip to main content

Demonstration of new RPA services for the Water Research Commission of South Africa

LS Multi Copter Projects and Services (Pty) Ltd (LSMC), an associated company of LS of South Africa Radio Communications Services (Pty) Ltd (LSofSA), has demonstrated some new Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) solutions involving the collection and real-time testing of water samples remotely and in-flight.

LSMC and LSofSA have successfully demonstrated new RPA solutions for the Water Research Commission (WRC) of South Africa at X Factor Trout Farm on 31 January 2024. Those also involved in the project are Drobotics Systems, the University of Johannesburg (Water and Health Research Centre, UJ BluJoy), and Stellenbosch University. The demonstration exhibited new drone-based technology for the ultimate goal of keeping South Africa's waterways clean.

LSMC was enlisted to provide licensed drones, operations, and create a custom winch. The winch was custom designed to be mounted on a drone and designed to be strong enough to carry a payload of probes. LSofSA created the software for the onboard drone computer and base station computer. The system is designed to connect and integrate with the probe platform and forward the probe data, in real-time, to the base station computer for viewing.

The winch is Arduino based and uses a geared stepper motor. The initial housing was 3D printed and was eventually replaced with a machined housing made of aircraft-grade aluminium alloy. DRobotic Systems sought the help of LSofSA to create a custom prototype probe measurement platform as a proof of concept for initial testing purposes.

An Arduino based measurement platform was created with a pH probe and an ORP probe. It is battery powered and sits on top of a floating block called 'The Jig' in a 3D printed enclosure. The Jig has holes in its corners to affix the probes. The enclosure is coated with epoxy designed to be water resistant to survive splashes.

The demonstrations at X Factor Trout Farm were flawless where there was good weather and calm water. The Khoisan Village has a flowing river and a well. Water samples were successfully collected at both. The probe measurement on the river failed when high currents capsized the probe platform. A small amount of water managed to disrupt the measurement but the system survived once it was drained and dried.