52 Alaska Business | May 2018 www.akbizmag.com
Conservation’s Prevention, Preparedness, and
Response Program, says that the department
is seeing rapid change in the use of unmanned
aerial aircraft as well as infrared and optical
Moore notes that it can be relatively hard
to determine the effectiveness of a boom’s
containment of a spill from the water’s surface: a drone is capable of providing a much
better view of the situation.
Given the remote nature and dangerous
conditions sometimes surrounding an oil
spill in Alaska, drones offer the added benefit
of risk mitigation—not putting a human life
in harm’s way as part of the recovery process.
Dr. Ed Owens of Owens Coastal Consultants, which specializes in shoreline cleanup
assessment technique (SCAT) surveys among
other spill response operations, explains how
his company uses drones.
“[We] use drones in remote areas, areas that
are difficult to access on foot,” such as mud flats,
headlands, and wetlands. “A lot of wetlands you
walk for two hours to get to a site, and you get
there, and there’s no oil... and then you have to
walk two hours back. We use drones... to go out
and do a reconnaissance,” he says.
Of course, not all unmanned vehicles are
airborne. There is also working being done
on identifying uses of unmanned waterborne
vehicles in the Arctic and sub-Arctic regions.
“I don’t believe we’ve seen [unmanned
waterborne vehicles] used in an accident response here in Alaska yet, but it is something
that our UAF [University of Alaska Fairbanks]
partners are actively researching,” Moore says.
Oil Spill Response Research
And researchers at UAF are not the only ones
probing such technology in Alaska. The Oil
Spill Recovery Institute (OSRI) explained in
its 2017 Fiscal Year Report that it is working
to ensure USCG, which is responsible for responding to oil spills in open water and in ice
conditions, “is aware of the current state of
technology for spill response in ice” by partnering with them to develop and test new
Last year, unmanned systems, as well as
self-propelled skimmers, were among the re-
is tested in icy Arctic
water in a USCG-OSRI project.
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