Water company first as Anglian use drones to spot nesting birds

17 June 2021


Anglian Water staff are using thermal imaging drones in a bid to protect birds in rural Lincolnshire as part of their environmental assessments ahead of starting one of the largest infrastructure projects in the UK.


Cutting-edge drones are flying special night-time missions to allow construction teams to locate and protect nesting birds along the route of a brand-new water pipeline so they can be protected and are not disturbed by the construction work.


The technology has been deployed along the route of the new 24km pipeline between Lincoln and Grantham, and it is the first time that they have been used by a water company in this way.


The project is part of Anglian Water’s new £400 million strategic pipeline which will secure future water supplies through the installation of hundreds of kilometers of interconnecting pipelines across the east of England.


Anglian Water operates in the driest part of the UK, meaning future water scarcity is the biggest challenge the company faces. Ultimately the strategic pipeline will allow water to be moved from areas of surplus in north Lincolnshire, to areas of deficit in the south and east of the region, via new and existing pipelines. It is the biggest water infrastructure project in generations – without it, the East would face a water deficit of millions of litres of water a day.


Before any scheme begins Anglian Water undertake robust environmental and ecological surveys to ensure there is no detrimental impact on the surrounding wildlife. All wild birds, their nests and eggs are protected by law. Drones are an alternative way of carrying out these vital surveys as they can find nests faster and more accurately.


Andrew Weston, part of the Ecology Team who devised the plan to use drones, said: “The thermal cameras check for heat signatures of ground-nesting birds. Once they’re found they are cordoned off so the workers laying the pipes, who are often using big equipment such as diggers, avoid the area and do not disturb the birds. The drones fly at night, usually about 3am, as that is the best time to locate any nests.


“As well as delivering a much-needed network of interconnecting water pipelines, we’re committed to maintaining rich, diverse, environmentally-friendly landscapes in the areas we work.


“We take our responsibilities to the environment seriously, especially on large infrastructure schemes. It’s important that we not only respect the areas in which we work and protect wildlife but, where possible, enhance it too.”