Ongoing research highlights

Drone-implemented integration of GIScience, Engineering, Plant Biology, and Community Education for Dam Safety Assessment

Proposal summary: The proposed research integrates five distinct disciplines to achieve the goal of improving the assessment of tree impacts on dam safety. Relying on our preliminary research on flood-affected earthen dams in recent years, 2-3 representative dams around Columbia, SC will be selected. We will collect drone-based, high-resolution true color and color infrared images on dams, and extract the biophysical attributes such as tree species, height, canopy size and underground root systems. These results will be validated and compared with the results collected from walk-through dam inspection. Historical records of dam management and land use changes will be surveyed with dam owners and acquired from archived documents. Eventually, a new protocol for dam inspection will be developed to educate dam owners for reducing the problems caused by overgrowth of trees. Working with SC Department of Health and Environmental Control (SCDHEC) and other programs, we will reach out to dam owners to interview them about their understanding of dam safety and threats. Completion of the proposed work will provide proof of concept and preliminary data for pursuit of competitive full-scale research funding, which transforms the concept into an innovative technology and procedures for performing condition assessments of dams.