Development Of Real-Time Detection Of Cyanotoxins In Drinking And Irrigation Water Sources Using Unmanned Aerial Vehicles And Validation With Laboratory Measurements

New research will take the birds’ eye view of harmful algal blooms to get test results faster

Principal Investigator

Jiyoung Lee, Ohio State University


A project underway at Ohio State combines land, air and space technologies to monitor harmful algal blooms in lakes and agricultural ponds.

When water quality is threatened by harmful algal blooms, communities need to know where the blooms are and how much toxin they are producing. Traditional methods for monitoring the status and severity of algal blooms rely on physically collecting water samples, transporting them to a laboratory and performing tests—all of which can add 6-12 hours before knowing an answer. This delay can hamper decision-making by water management experts, especially in emergency circumstances.

An interdisciplinary team of researchers led by Jiyoung Lee, an associate professor of public health at The Ohio State University, is looking for ways to cut down the time it takes to get readings on algal blooms. Using unmanned aerial vehicles (sometimes called “drones”) to collect samples and satellites to scan the color profile of the water from space, the team will get a sense of the “signature” of harmful algal blooms that they will verify in the laboratory.

The End Result

 A faster way for public safety officials to know whether an algal bloom contains toxins of concern at dangerous levels.

Full Project Information

Read about the project at the Ohio Sea Grant website.