P.E.I. researchers using drones to fight coastal erosion

Researchers at UPEI have been using drones this summer to gather data and imagery of the Island's coast to learn more about climate change and erosion.

'Our previous method of measuring erosion was really just using stakes and a measuring tape'

The UPEI Climate Research Lab has been using drones this summer to learn more about erosion on the Island's coast. (CBC)

Andy MacDonald may have the perfect summer job — driving around P.E.I. to beautiful, coastal areas.

But MacDonald, a researcher with UPEI's Climate Research Lab, doesn't travel alone. 

He brings with him a fleet of drones to take high-resolution images and learn more about the effects of climate change and erosion on the coastline. 

Better than measuring tape and stakes

"I wouldn't be able to do this research if it wasn't for the drone. Our previous method of measuring erosion was really just using stakes and a measuring tape," MacDonald said. 

"So we could only take in a few measurements for a stretch of coast. Now we can fly [200] or 300 metres, and understand how much erosion is taking place for that entire distance. So it's a real game changer."

Andy MacDonald, a researcher with the UPEI Climate Research Lab, is part of the team that has been using drones to learn more about coastal erosion this summer. (CBC)

The climate research team at UPEI have three drones and are looking to buy a fourth. Along with cameras and GPS devices, the equipment costs about $120,000. 

Since May, the research team has flown drones at more than 40 sites across the province. The plan is to continue doing so for a few more weeks, and then hand over a 3D model of the coastline to the provincial government, who is partially funding the project. 

"We know on P.E.I., our coastal erosion in some areas is up to 43 centimetres, in some areas two to three metres. It's very important to all aspects of Prince Edward Island life that we maintain our province," said Robert Mitchell, P.E.I.'s environment minister. 

"So we do have to do some work in regards to mitigation of our coastal erosion, and climate change in general."

With files from Steve Bruce