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Robot transforms the way water quality is monitored

Robotics is revolutionising the way water quality is being monitored across Australia’s South East Queensland.

Seqwater, which is the Queensland Government’s statutory authority responsible for providing a safe, secure and cost-effective bulk drinking water supply, has been working with robotic researchers at Queensland University of Technology’s Institute for Future Environments to create SAMMI.

According to a recent press release, Seqwater’s Autonomous Motorised Monitoring Instrument (SAMMI) is a solar-powered, self-driving robot built in order to conduct routine water quality monitoring in difficult to access locations.

Current situation

Queensland Natural Resources Minister Dr Anthony Lynham recently visited North Pine Dam for a demonstration of the new technology.

According to him, the use of SAMMI would revolutionise the way the Agency monitors its water quality. Monitoring water quality for drinking water and for recreation is critical to the agency’s operations.

Until now, the in-lake instruments that they used to analyse and monitor water quality could only be used in fixed locations.

Because of this, field scientists had to travel to areas that are difficult to access in order to monitor and service these instruments.

How can SAMMI improve monitoring of water quality?

However, water quality monitoring will be more efficient and effective with the new technology working in combination with the Agency’s existing fixed network.

A Robotic Professor from the University explained that the 1.7 m robot was capable of operating autonomously in waterways.

Some of its capabilities include collecting water samples, measuring water quality parameters, and creating sonar maps of each reservoir.

Other unique features of the robot are its ability to dock into a custom berth to allow for solar recharging, and attachments for helicopter lifting into remote, inaccessible areas.

Although it has taken nine months to build and test the robot, it leverages many years of experience in robotic boat technology for environmental assessment.

Partnering is the key

Partnering on research projects with universities like this provided long-term benefits for South East Queensland’s water supply, according to the Agency’s Chief Executive Officer.

The development and implementation of SAMMI highlights the importance of finding research-based solutions to help best manage South East Queensland’s water supplies.

The evolution of technology provides fantastic opportunities to incorporate cutting edge solutions that will make work smarter.

How does the robot work?

The robot operates by following location and task commands preloaded using a custom tablet-based user interface.

It moves from one location to another by using a range of GPS and obstacle avoidance sensors and then collects water samples and other water quality information before returning to base.

This allows operation anytime of the day or night, rain or sunshine.

The Agency expects to incorporate SAMMI into its operations over the second half of 2019.

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