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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/P02839X/1
Title: Emergency flood planning and management using unmanned aerial systems
Principal Investigator: Butler, Professor D
Other Investigators:
Menon, Professor PP Rivas Casado, Dr M Edwards, Professor C
Sujit, Dr PB Mujumdar, Professor P Waine, Dr TW
Leinster, Professor P Ghose, Professor D
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
Arcadis (International) Brigham Young University Environment Agency (Grouped)
Indian Inst of Technology (IIT) Bombay Indian Institute of Science IISc Indraprastha Inst of IT Delhi
Tata Consultancy Services (India) United Nations Environment Prog (UNEP) University of Nice Sophia Antipolis
Department: Engineering
Organisation: University of Exeter
Scheme: GCRF (EPSRC)
Starts: 01 May 2017 Ends: 30 April 2021 Value (£): 1,494,249
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Robotics & Autonomy Survey & Monitoring
Water Engineering
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
17 Mar 2017 EPSRC GCRF 1 Meeting B - 17 March 2017 Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
Some 5 million people live in flood risk areas in England and Wales, with one in six homes at risk of flooding. In India, similar risks are present: over 40 million hectares (12% of India's land mass) are prone to flooding and river erosion. In this century, the economic losses resulting from damage caused by flooding far outweigh the costs associated with other natural disasters ($21bn in losses from 27 instances in the UK, and $39bn in losses from 128 instances in India). Furthermore, both the frequency and intensity of pluvial and fluvial flooding is expected to increase over time due to climate change - increasing flood risk, financial loss and (human) fatalities. The UK has well-developed emergency planning processes and procedures, and yet there have been a number of recent cases of flooding where the emergency evacuation process has been stretched to its limits and beyond (e.g. Cockermouth and Carlisle). Earlier this year, the Indian Parliament put forward a national action plan under the Disaster Management Act with the aim of substantially decreasing the loss of life, livelihoods and assets, by improving the country's response to disasters. The plan highlights the urgent need for improved (predictive) warning, risk and threat identification and policy assessment, evacuation planning, data collection, information dissemination, cooperation and effective management of the relief operation. At the heart of the management of these issues is developing a good knowledge of the underlying communities and their infrastructure and the state of these endangered systems at critical times, particularly during the onset and development of the flooding event. The deployment and management of unmanned aerial systems (either vertical take-off and landing quad-rotors or small fixed wing aircraft) and of their data product coupled with advanced model prediction capabilities would seem to be a challenging but promising way of supporting emergency planning and management and testing the predicted and actual effects of policy decisions.

The project focuses on using instrumented unmanned aerial systems (UASs) to collect and collate pertinent information about an unfolding flooding disaster. The relative ease with which UASs can be deployed (often hand launched) to assess damage across large areas provides emergency responders with the opportunity to assess the situation quickly, allowing the prioritisation of resources and their effective deployment where they are required. One aspect of the research will focus on addressing the challenges associated with flying UASs in such (non-ideal) situations: for example maintaining performance during adverse weather conditions, during intermittent loss of communication with the base station, overcoming the loss of operator visuals, providing the ability to recover the vehicle without a runway and avoiding potential collisions with unexpected obstacles within the flight domain.

The project will also consider how the data can be combined with accelerated flood inundation models to generate detailed evacuation plans, and to predict the nature and progress of the flooding to improve allocation of emergency resources, build community flood resilience, save lives and reduce economic damage. The strategy will take into account both the physicality of the flood event itself and the social structures which are subject to the flooding.

The concepts will be practically realised by the creation of a prototype decision support system to allow on-the-ground decision makers in the UK and India emergency coordination teams, or government agencies, to better understand the consequences of flooding to help them make timely and better informed decisions. We will also focus on engaging users and building capacity in India and the UK to integrate the use of UASs effectively into current flood response frameworks in a structured way to maximise the benefits they can provide.
Key Findings
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Potential use in non-academic contexts
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Date Materialised
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