For the Record – Can drones be used to map coastal pollution in BC ?

Nikita Nayak – April 24 ,2019

Drones are used to create digital elevation models of an area to determine where pollutants exist ( Nathan Vadeboncouer / Smart Shores )

Drone model of BC coast

A Vancouver-based startup called Smart Shores is developing a new way to map coastal pollution using drones and special sensors. Coastal mapping techniques that currently exist are expensive and are a relatively tedious process.

Smart Shores President Nathan Vadeboncouer‘s team of scientists hope to carry out pollution testing and mapping in a faster and cheaper way. They intend to make use of drones to take high-resolution images of remote areas instead of taking images of the same region using airplanes – a costly undertaking.

They will also be taking polluted soil samples from the field and test them in labs and create 3D models of the area to understand where the pollutants are coming from. His team will mainly be looking for heavy metals, fertilizers and the disease causing bacteria, E.coli.

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans has banned about 30 fishing sites across BC. The soil in shellfish habitats are often found to have toxins that contaminates the fish –  creating a health risk for people who eat them.

Once the new technology is fine-tuned, they will be able to help Semiahmoo First Nation in reviving the shellfish harvesting site located on their territory. Their shellfish fishery was shut down in the 1970s due to pollution. They have not been able to carry out pollution testing of the area because of high costs.
Smart Shores plans to step in to measure recent levels of pollution in the area.

“One of the things that shellfish harvesting does is it allows older people to get together with younger people and to go out on the land and to share the stories and the cultural traditions and the traditional skills that help connect the Semiahmoo Nation with their territory, which has supported them for thousands of years.”

Nathan Vadeboncouer Smart Shores President & Founder

The Little Campbell River estuary will be one of the testing sites for the coastal mapping project ( Nathan Vadeboncouer / Smart Shores )

The mouth of the Little Campbell River is one of the study sites

Listen to the full interview with Nathan Vadeboncouer as he discusses the coastal pollution mapping project that will help make BC’s coast greener.