SafeSwim Drone Sampling

Client:  Auckland Council
Date:  2020

Auckland Council’s SafeSwim model enables easy public access to real-time water quality forecasts for Auckland beaches.  The deeper waters offshore are used for a range of leisure activities – for example, boating, swimming, and fishing.  Therefore, the quality of this water must be monitored.

We have developed an offshore water quality sampling method using a waterproof drone.  This provides a safer and cheaper alternative to traditional offshore sampling methods such as boats or helicopters.



  • Safety – No staff are over deep water as sampling is conducted from dry land
  • Inexpensive – UAVs are relatively inexpensive when compared to the daily costs to use boats or helicopters.  This methodology also enables smaller field teams and less field time



  • Lake sampling
  • River sampling
  • Quarry lake sampling where water could be dangerous or banks are potentially unstable
  • Wastewater treatment ponds

Client:  Auckland Council
Date:  2020

This project involved deep water sampling at six Auckland beaches (Mission Bay Beach, Kohimarama Beach, St Helliers Beach, Takapuna Beach, Milford Beach, and Narrow Neck Beach).  Three transects were used at each beach, with six samples taken along each transect as shown in the figure above.

Sample location is determined by water depth, where the tidal stage and bathymetric surveys of transects, completed before sampling, are used to determine the water depth/sample location.  Samples are collected following heavy rainfall events, with each collected sample analysed for Enterococci concentrations.

Sampling Process

  1. The equipment used for this methodology includes a Swellpro Splashdrone 3 and Hyrdasleeves
  2. A weighted Hydrasleeve is attached to the drone using a tether
  3. The drone is then flown to the sample location, where the Hydrasleeve is lowered into the water
  4. A float which is attached to the tether ensures samples are always collected from the same depth
  5. Once the float is sitting on the water surface, the drone is flown upwards to open the Hydrasleeve valve and collect the sample
  6. The sample is then flown back to the beach to be decanted into a sample bottle and stored
  7. Hydrasleeves are exchanged and the process is repeated

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