Project Description

The EPA’s Research Programme 2014-2020 is designed to identify pressures, inform policy and develop solutions to environmental challenges through the provision of strong evidence-based scientific knowledge.


This research project:

Identifies the Pressures of lake surface water sampling and monitoring requirements of the EU Water Framework Directive on the EPA Lakes Monitoring team.

  • The EU WFD aims to achieve Good Ecological Status for all European surface & ground waters by 2021
  • This requires large scale ecological monitoring and sampling programmes e.g. EPA WFD Lake Monitoring programme
  • Key pressures of long-term effective water quality monitoring programmes:
    • Need for trained personnel,
    • Are expensive to run,
    • Time consuming,
    • Resource intensive e.g use of boat,
    • Pose health & safety and bio-security risks, and
    • Some lakes have limited accessibility for sampling using a boat.

There is now a need to streamline the efficiency in which biological and physico-chemical samples are taken from monitored lakes and gather data to strengthen the ecological understanding and status of unmonitored lakes. These efforts will provide a greater understanding of the ecological status of Irish lakes and ensure better compliance, by Ireland, with the WFD.


Applying the use of drones to streamline sampling and monitoring methodologies Informs national and European Policy specifically the EU Water Framework Directive (WFD) which in turn results in a streamlined, efficient EPA Lake Monitoring Programme (EU WFD & Habitats Directives). Also highlights whether this application of new technology can be utilised by the EPA in Ireland to reduce water sampling costs, time and resources in a safer and more bio-secure manner compared to using boats.

This research project will comply with all Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) and European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) legislation pertaining to the operation of the drone for the water sampling. In addition, consideration will be given to restrictions imposed by the Office of Public Works (OPW) and any implications resulting from the operation of the drone within NATURA 2000 sites.

  • Irish Aviation Authority (Small Unmanned Aircraft (Drones) and Rockets)(S.I. No. 563 of 2015) Order
  • Joint Authorities for Rule Making for Unmanned Systems (JURUS)
    • Notice of Proposed Amendments (NPA) 2017-05


Develops Solutions through the use and development of autonomous water sampling and monitoring systems attached to drones which will offer the potential to reduce water sampling costs, time, personnel required and resources in a safer manner to those of using boats.

The potential use of drones to gather water quality data may allow for resources to be redirected into sampling a greater number of lakes thereby allowing for a more cost effective WFD Lake Monitoring Programme and ultimately greater compliance, by Ireland, with the WFD.