On March 16, 2021, Walden’s Ted Nitza and Harkin Aerial’s Scott Harrigan will be presenting at the national 2022 Operation & Maintenance of Stormwater Control Measures Conference during the morning group of sessions categorized ‘Technology and Novel Equipment’. Walden’s Rebecca Stouges is also a co-author of this study and has contributed much of the engineering analysis, fieldwork and report writing. The title of the presentation is “Illicit Discharges Detection in Stormwater Management Systems Using Unmanned Aerial Thermography” and will take place from 8:30 am – 10:00 am, among other innovative and groundbreaking presentations. The presentations will be moderated by Dr. Kathy Debusk Gee of Longwood University. The conference is being held in North Carolina by the Environment & Water Resources Institute of the American Society of Civil Engineers.


Registration for this conference is still open and can be accessed at this link.


Walden and Harkin Aerial have partnered to use innovative technology to improve water quality with tools for illicit discharge detection, map infrastructure, and locate other potential issues related to stormwater utility infrastructure. The presentation will cover the detection of illicit discharges in stormwater management systems using unmanned aerial thermography.


Recent project experience and research and development efforts led by Walden and Harkin Aerial have utilized drone thermal imaging equipment. This work has shown the combination of technologies to be effective at identifying water quality issues in the form of thermal anomalies seen in thermal imagery.

The presentation will first provide an overview of the current state of commercial aerial thermography, UAV (drone) and thermal camera equipment selection, flight planning and environmental/site considerations, and the methodology employed in the drone-based data collection.


Secondly, a visual review of notable thermal images will be presented alongside the representative stormwater issues detected in each image to showcase a “visual library” of water issues that can be categorized from the data. Best practices for thermal imaging and common false-positives in imagery will be discussed and highlighted.


Walden and Harkin are excited to be sharing their experiences and knowledge to benefit other stormwater engineers, MS4 stewards, and program administrators. Municipal and private firms can also benefit from the information by leveraging the latest engineering and drone technology to identify and manage stormwater and other water quality issues.


Walden and Harkin continue to develop the applications of this technology to improve infrastructure studies and environmental assessments. If you’re interested in learning more about the services available through Walden and Harkin, contact Walden today!