Robots with Smartphones, the Next Tech in Water Quality Monitoring?
So when we came across an article on www.waterworld.com about University of California, Berkeley engineers launching a fleet of 100 floating robots on the Sacramento River, we took notice.
According to the article, the Floating Sensor Network Project, led by associate professor Alexandre Bayen, offers a quickly-deployable real-time data picture of tough-to-map rivers and streams.
The project is actually an evolution of previous research from Bayen, where he used GPS-enabled smartphones to monitor traffic flow, according to the article.
In a waterway, the floating robots work in much the same way, mapping the intricate way in which the water is moving – critical for understanding the spread of pollutants.
“If something spills in the water, if there’s a contaminant, you need to know where it is now, you need to know where it’s going, you need to know where it will be later on,” said Andrew Tinka, a Ph.D. candidate in electrical engineering and computer sciences and the lead graduate student on the project in the article. “The Floating Sensor Network project can help by tracking water flow at a level of detail not currently possible.”
Down the line, the robots could also be set up to monitor other aspects affecting water quality, like temperature or contaminant levels, rather than just water speed and movement – making them even more valuable for real-time water quality monitoring.
But the technology isn’t perfect yet, as the floating robots tend to get hung up on the shores, requiring close supervision – so the ability to avoid obstacles is on the to-do list, Tinka said in the article.
“In the future, cost and size will go down, while performance and autonomy will go up, enabling monitoring at unprecedented scales,” said Bayen in the article. “We expect this to become an invaluable tool for the future management of a critical resource in this state and around the world.”
The continued advancement of our ability to monitor the quality of water, an increasingly precious resource, can only be a good thing, and here at WETLAB, we’re excited to play a part in that ongoing progress.