USM, ERDC Environmental Lab collaborate on test project at Vicksburg waterfront

Published 4:44 pm Tuesday, September 19, 2023

The Yazoo Diversion Canal became a laboratory for the University of Southern Mississippi and the environmental laboratory for the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center on Tuesday, as a small remote-controlled floating platform operated by USM researchers patrolled the canal assisted by an ERDC drone flying overhead.

“We’re doing some collaborative research with the environmental lab; what’s called multi-domain operations — in this case, sea and air,” said Dr. Jason McKenna with the Roger F. Wicker Center for Ocean Enterprise. “Combining those to address an issue right now, we’re simulating what would happen if there was some kind of oil spill or a chemical spill in a river or a port, or something like that where the drone would see something with the airborne.

“We’re going to be doing a demonstration for some folks at MCITy tomorrow (Wednesday),” he added. “We’re here as part of the Mississippi Research Consortium. We’ve got a presence at MCITy along with the other three universities: Ole Miss, Jackson State and Mississippi State. This is our initial collaboration with the environmental lab.”

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The exercise in the diversion canal simulated an oil or chemical spill in the river that was found by the drone and the surface platform called an SP-48 would go to the plume of chemicals in the water to provide information on river currents, wind speed, which direction the substance is moving “and then you would turn to underwater inspection with a remotely operated vehicle or so and then you pass that information very quickly to decision-makers to figure out if you need to recover it.

“If there’s some kind of environmental incident, emergency response, it could be like an oil spill offshore on the coast, it could be something, you know, some old dry waters now uncovered some buried toxic waste storms or something like that,” McKenna said.

McKenna said USM’s location in MCITy is the first time the school has been in Central Mississippi.

“What we’ve been doing on the Coast is we’ve been building up an ecosystem on the blue economy. We wanted to be able to share our expertise and our ecosystem through converting folks and then kind of help transform this area kind of food industry and more high paying jobs in the area, that kind of thing around technology,” he said.

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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