Europe is researching low-cost drones to monitor the quality of its water sources.

The project is funded by the EU at a cost of $9.9 million. It will take effect in June this year.

The drones will collect and analyse samples of water. An algorithm allows operators to control three to five of them at a time.

“Our goal is to understand and validate the impact of different water treatment methods and infrastructures on the health of river and lakes, collecting real-time data on parameters such as pH, conductivity, the presence of heavy metals and hydrocarbon in water”, Francesco Fatone from the University of Verona, one of the project’s partners, told ZDNet.

Data on water quality will be accessible by the public on an online site – with restrictions to the level of information based on a user’s expertise. A two-way exchange is also encouraged, with a feature that allows citizens to raise queries.

The research is a joint effort between the private and public sector. It is coordinated by six major European universities and 14 other companies and institutions.

The project will focus on four reservoirs of drinking water in Italy, Greece, the UK and Spain, and take under four years to complete, the EU said.