Home Natural Resource Management Floating sensor network to monitor water resources

Floating sensor network to monitor water resources

Berkeley, US: Engineers at the University of California, Berkeley, US, developed GPS-powered Floating Sensor Network. Through the smartphone-equipped floating robots, equipped with sensors; engineers aim to develop next generation of water monitoring technology, promising to transform the way government agencies monitor one of the state’s most precious resources.

The Floating Sensor Network project is led by associate professor Alexandre Bayen, a researcher at the Center for Information Technology Research in the Interest of Society (CITRIS).

According to the university’s press statement, the network of mobile sensors can be deployed rapidly to provide real-time, high-resolution data in hard-to-map waterways. One area that stands to benefit from this technology is the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, with its complex network of channels that direct drinking water to two-thirds of California’s population and irrigation water for 3 million acres of agriculture.

Having a high volume of sensors moving through the water can shed light on processes that are influenced by how water moves, such as the spread of pollutants, the migration of salmon or how salt and fresh water mix in the Delta’s ecosystem, the researchers said.

Such a flexible system could be critical in the event of an emergency, including a levee breach or oil spill, the researchers noted. The sensors could be thrown into action from a dock, shore, boats or even helicopters.

“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. “The Floating Sensor Network project can help by tracking water flow at a level of detail not currently possible.”

The project is an evolution of earlier research led by Bayen called Mobile Century and Mobile Millennium, which uses GPS-enabled smartphones to monitor traffic flow. Instead of a map of traffic, the Floating Century mobile probes created a map of water flow.

Although the sensors in the test were set up to monitor the speed of water currents, the researchers said the floats could be equipped with sensors for a variety of measurements, including temperature, salinity, or a contaminant of interest.

The floating sensor network has been tested in collaboration with the US Department of Homeland Security and the US Army Corps of Engineers to assess water discharge downstream from broken levees.

Source: UC Berkeley