On February 5, 2019, a cyclone shoved a bulk carrier into the edge of a reef on Rennell Island, cracking its hull. The fuel oil spill that resulted made international news, as it happened along the world’s largest raised coral atoll and just northwest of a UNESCO World Heritage site. Scientists consider this area—northwest of Australia—a haven for research given its untouched nature and rare inhabitant species.
Strategic Natural Resource Consultants, based in British Columbia, were called to send experts to assess the spill, including Mike Morellato, a drone specialist with experience in Shoreline Cleanup Assessment Technique (SCAT). After supporting spills in Canada with traditional methods, he took the WingtraOne on a long journey to this, the company’s first, international spill response.
In the end, WingtraOne’s unique VTOL take-off and landing capabilities along with broad coverage and an ability to handle winds along a sharply-rising shoreline made a marked difference in the first, critical stages of spill cleanup.
When a spill happens, some of the first active crews will use SCAT to gauge where resources—staff, bags, equipment are needed. They also recommend the best cleanup techniques and scout out optimal access into the area to be cleaned. When performing SCAT, experts divide the beach into segments to classify and prioritize. This analysis also provides stakeholders with some insights around the level of effort and time to clean up the spill.
“The orthomosaics from WingtraOne data helped to answer key questions and provided context about priority areas,” Morellato explained. “You segment and classify based on the level of oiling, topographical features and substrate. Having the ortho helps to communicate this to not only our own field staff but also to other stakeholders that may be off-site at the time.” Most of all, SCAT provides a legally-defensible record of what’s happening along the shoreline in terms of oil spill effects, which enables a summary of recommended action.
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