Engineering insight: Chris Drummond

Chris on the Williams River, GPS at his sideThis year we’re excited to open a window into the often challenging, sometimes quirky, but always interesting adventures of WRL’s engineers, scientists and researchers. To kick off this series, we caught up with WRL Engineer and UAV Pilot, Chris Drummond.

2017 was a busy year for Chris; in the field his work took him through wetlands and swamps, beaches and bays, while in the lab he was confronted by some of the most challenging and technical physical modelling projects we’ve seen in many years. We spoke with him about some of his recent projects, and found out what 2018 has in store:

Chris, what was your most interesting lab based project from last year?

“For the first part of 2017 I was undertaking one of the more complex 3D wave basin physical modelling projects that WRL has worked on for a number of years. We were working in partnership with other design engineers to help with the detailed design of a new submerged coastal control structure – essentially a large underwater reef, carefully designed to work in partnership with natural beach processes at the site, and to buffer the effects of coastal erosion.

WRL’s role was to design, build, test and analyse a large scale physical model of the beach and submerged control structure. The model included reproduction of the rock reef, beach, waves and tides in our large wave basin facility, to simulate the key processes at the site and to understand the influence of the control structure on these processes. It had a mobile shoreline area which meant that the beach in the model was able to move around and realign to the driving forces of waves and currents, and we could use the model to analyse how the surf zone dynamics and sediment transport would adjust to the new control structure. We used a high resolution 3D laser scanner to map the changes to the beach in the model throughout each test, as well as particle and dye tracing.

Understanding the scaling limitations and interpreting the results from the modelling was very complex – a challenge where the modelling is as much an art as it is a science.”

Chris in the wave basin; high resolution laser scanning; and sediment and dye tracing in the 3D wave basin model

This evening Chris is off to Rarotonga, Cook Islands with Principal Coastal Engineer Matt Blacka. WRL has been contracted to deliver a large-scale environmental and oceanographic investigation of Muri Lagoon that includes GPS and drone surveying, as well as deploying a network of instrumentation to measure water levels, waves and currents. The data collected over the next few months will then be used to develop a numerical hydrodynamic model of the lagoon processes to help develop management strategies for water quality and lagoon health.

The Avana Passage – entrance to Muri Lagoon, Rarotonga, Cook Islands

Chris summarises his recent work nicely for us:

“These two projects capture the broad range of work we do at WRL – the next interesting project is always just around the corner, and with it will come new adventures and new challenges; meeting new people and working with them to develop solutions to their problems.” 


WRL is currently looking for a Graduate Project Engineer to join our dynamic Projects Team!

To find out more, and see how to apply, visit: http://www.wrl.unsw.edu.au/news/we-are-hiring

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