Surface Characterisation of Kolk-Boils within Tidal Stream Environments Using UAV Imagery

James Slingsby, Beth E Scott, Louise T Kregting, Jason McIlvenny, Jared Wilson, Ana Couto, Deon Roos, Marion Yanez, Benjamin Williamson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)
61 Downloads (Pure)


High-flow tidal stream environments, targeted for tidal turbine installations, exhibit turbulent features, at fine spatio-temporal scales (metres and seconds), created by site-specific topography and bathymetry. Bed-derived turbulent features (kolk-boils) are thought to have detrimental effects on tidal turbines. Characterisation of kolk-boils is therefore essential to inform turbine reliability, control, and maintenance strategies. It will also improve the understanding of potential ecological interactions with turbines, as marine animals use these sites for foraging. Unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), or drone, imagery offers a novel approach to take precise measurements of kolk-boil characteristics (distribution, presence, and area) at the surface. This study carried out sixty-three UAV surveys within the Inner Sound of the Pentland Firth, Scotland, UK, over four-day periods in 2016 and 2018. Kolk-boil characteristics were examined against relevant environmental covariates to investigate potential drivers of presence and area. The results show that distribution at the surface could be predicted based on tidal phase, with current velocity significantly influencing presence above 3.0 m/s. The technique can be used to inform turbine development, micro-siting and provide better understanding of environmental implications of turbine operation. Finally, it highlights the suitability of UAVs for capturing rapid fine-scale hydrodynamic data in the absence of in situ measurements.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Marine Science and Engineering
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 30 Apr 2021


  • turbulence
  • hydrodynamics
  • remote sensing
  • marine renewable energy
  • tidal energy


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