Bureau of Reclamation Selects New Mexico State University for Unmanned Aircraft System Inspection of Elephant Butte Dam

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Research project will be first Reclamation dam inspection using an unmanned aircraft system

Elephant Butte Dam in New Mexico.

The Bureau of Reclamation has selected New Mexico State University to be the lead subject matter expert to perform the first Reclamation dam inspection using an unmanned aircraft system. This aeronautical research project will occur at Elephant Butte Dam in New Mexico. Reclamation is providing New Mexico State $35,000 to assist in the project.

New Mexico State University will work with Reclamation staff to develop the concept of operations, address safety requirements, select the unmanned aircraft system and appropriate sensors, validate flight procedures and perform the inspection.

The research project will determine the applicability of unmanned aircraft systems as a tool for infrastructure inspection using light detection and ranging (LIDAR), infrared (IR), photogrammetry and HD video. It will help Reclamation determine potential issues with the dams' infrastructure including concrete cracks, spalls and other subsurface defects including moisture where it should not be, and any erosion or other topographical changes to the dam and spillway.

The flight will take place in the next couple of months.

Reclamation's Research and Development Program are funding this project. It focuses on researching innovative, workable solutions to challenging water and power management issues in the western United States. It provides solutions for Reclamation water and facility managers and the stakeholders they serve. To learn more, please visit http://www.usbr.gov/research.

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Peter Soeth
Bureau of Reclamation
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