Remote Piloted Aircraft and the storm surge

Remote Piloted Aircraft and the storm surge

The aim of the project was to map the gravel barrier, saline lagoons and fresh water marshes in the Blakeney-Cley region of the North Norfolk coast. The project’s aims also included gaining a better understanding of the impact of the storm surge in December 2013. Cefas used aerial photography to produce high-resolution ortho-photos and digital topographical surface models.

During the December 2013 storm surge, the gravel barrier and flood defences were breached in several locations. This led to saline inundation of the freshwater marshes and subsequent death of intolerant flora and fauna. The breaches and impacted areas were mapped in detail in 3cm resolution using Cefas’ Remote Piloted Aircraft (RPA), which is a drone-like device.

We are now working collaboratively with the University of East Anglia to:

  • Reconstruct the breach conditions
  • Understand the volumes of water involved
  • Understand the extent of sediment ingress
  • Map the impacted area and its recovery.

Our expertise in a range of areas have been used in this project, including:

  • Remote sensing
  • Coastal geomorphology
  • Hydrology
  • Ecology
  • Vegetation mapping
  • Aerial surveys.

Trevor Tolhurst, University of East Anglia, said "There is a challenge in translating scientific knowledge into real-world decision-making. This project is engaging with local communities and coastal managers in North Norfolk and bodies such as the Environment Agency to better inform decision making.  The resulting strategies will, we hope, benefit the entire coastline of the country, its habitats and those living close to it, in the future. But this is just the first step and longer-term work is required to determine how the coastal environment and local populace recover from such extreme events." 

This project was funded by the Natural Environment Research Council, with additional indirect funding from the Norfolk Wildlife Trust, National Trust and local communities.