Using an unmanned aerial vehicle water sampler to gather data in a pit-lake mining environment to assess closure and monitoring

Environ Monit Assess. 2021 Aug 13;193(9):572. doi: 10.1007/s10661-021-09316-3.


Residual pit lakes from mining are often dangerous to sample for water quality. Thus, pit lakes may be rarely (or never) sampled. This study developed new technology in which water-sampling devices, mounted on an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), were used to sample three pit lakes in Nevada, USA, during 1 week in 2017. Water-quality datasets from two of the three pit lakes on public lands, Dexter and Clipper, are presented here. The current conditions of the Dexter pit lake were assessed by examining cation and anion concentration changes that have occurred over a 17-year period since the pit lake was last sampled in 2000. Data gathered during this sampling campaign assessed 2017 conditions of the Dexter and Clipper pit lakes by comparing constituent concentrations to the Nevada Division of Environmental Protection (NDEP) pit lake water-quality requirements, indicating that selenium concentrations exceeded regulatory standards. We compared our sampling data for Dexter lake to prior water-quality data from the Dexter pit lake collected in 1999 and 2000. This comparison for the Dexter pit lake indicates that evapoconcentration may have caused increasing cation and anion concentrations. This UAV sampling approach can potentially incorporate the use of additional multiparameter probes: pH, oxygen concentration, turbidity, or chlorophyll. Some limitations of this UAV water-sampling methodology are battery duration, weather conditions, and payload capacity.

Keywords: Aerial water sampling; Monitoring; Nevada pit lakes; Pit lake; UAS; UAV.

MeSH terms

  • Environmental Monitoring
  • Lakes*
  • Mining
  • Water Quality
  • Water*


  • Water