Flash floods are a risk in the country; at least 13 people died when floods hit parts of Saudi Arabia earlier this month, and two years ago more than a hundred died when thunderstorms saturated land to the east of the Red Sea port of Jeddah and a flash flood hit the city without warning.
Christian Claudel at the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology says a drone system could warn such cities of an impending flood and also predict the flood's path, NewScientist.com reported Wednesday.
In the proposed system a group of about 10 drones would drop disposable wireless sensors across the region at risk; any sensors meeting floodwater would be carried away on the current while the drones tracked their signal.
Data showing the sensors' changing positions would be relayed by the drones to a central database to create a model of floodwater flow, Claudel said.
"The sensors are made of printed circuits on paper, which reduces the cost of the device," an advantage over dedicated, expensive sensors with their own communications systems that may never be recovered, he said.