Using Drones to Tackle the Water Crisis

Kareena Shah
3 min readDec 1, 2022

UAVs, Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, are most novel due to their vertical takeoff capabilities and adaptability. They are often attributed towards their application in the military and defense realm, novel for their risk assessment, surveillance capabilities, and overall agility. Their implementation mitigates risks to human health and safety and expands the reach of military forces. In fact, in today’s times, they have proven to be essential in conventional combat and not just counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency efforts with their medium-altitude and low-speed abilities.

However, with time, their usability expanded far beyond their military applications. With non-military applications ranging from aerial photography to forest fire monitoring, UAVs have the potential to completely revolutionize a range of fields. And even moreso, dismantle global crises — specifically, the world water crisis.

Drones autonomously function and can also be remotely controlled.

Why the Water Crisis?

Water is essential to all life and empowering people with this fundamental human need, provides families with hope, health, and the opportunity to break the cycle of poverty. Every human being deserves to define their own future, and water makes that possible.

Yet, 785-million people globally lack access to clean drinking water. That’s 1 in 9 people. Of those 785-million people, 600-million people in India alone face extreme water stress.

In particular, thousands of villages in India have been the main targets of this water crisis. Many civilians are left dying due to thirst, hunger, debt, forced migration and withered crops. In these drought-prone villages of India women and children must spend time trying to get water, instead of working, going to school, or even caring for their families.

It is a woman’s burden to collect water irrespective of her physique, whether she is menstruating or ill, for which she has to walk miles and miles in dry areas, even during heat waves. 23% of girls in India dropout of school upon puberty due to lack of water. Oftentimes, young girls are married off for the mere purpose of fetching water.

These rural communities in India, situated on the outskirts of cities, are forced to drill deep wells in order to access groundwater. However, this flawed water system has contributed to the overall depletion of water. Other major contributing factors to this crisis are lack of government planning, increased corporate privatization, and industrial and human waste.

Clearly, this water crisis is man-made. Mismanagement of water and natural resources in addition to climate change have over time contributed to this issue.

How Can We Use Drones to Transport Water?

Now, before diving into the specific schematics of water transportation via UAVs, it’s important to note that

Drones can provide relief to those affected women and children and mitigate their time spent

Much of the schematics of this technology have been derived from the preexisting drone systems that exist to fight wildfires.

Collaborative UAVs can transport large quantities of extinguishing liquid (in our case it would be water) for the suppression of water via a simulating rain effect.

Visualization of simulating rainwater effect by UAVs.

Critical Flow Rate

The critical flow rate is essential for the diffusion of water.

Critical flow rate, in simple terms, is the fastest water flow rate that can be achieved with a specific release valve diameter.

Further Design Innovations to be Considered

As discussed previously, this system relies on the fact that the water is pre-placed within the UAVs for transportation. However, for the specific application of drinking water transportation from an existing water source. And so, a system is required to be devised to enable the drone to autonomously collect this water.

Keep a lookout for that… 👀

An inquisitive 17yo, Kareena Shah is embarking on an unconventional journey to work towards making space exploration and inhabitation a reality and along the way solve the world water crisis.

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Kareena Shah

A 17-year-old space tech enthusiast interested in leveraging space technology to make space exploration and inhabitation a reality.