Seqwater, the authority responsible for ensuring clean water is delivered to 3.1 million Queenslanders, has deployed an autonomous robot to check the quality of its water supplies and reservoirs.
Seqwater, collaborated with robotic researchers at the Queensland University of Technology’s QUT’s Institute for Future Environments to create Seqwater’s Autonomous Motorised Monitoring Instrument or SAMMI- a solar-powered, self-driving robot built out of a need to conduct routine water quality monitoring in difficult to access locations.
Affirming that the use of SAMMI would revolutionise the way Seqwater monitors its water quality Queensland Natural Resources Minister Dr Anthony Lynham visited North Pine Dam for a demonstration of the new technology said, “Water quality monitoring for drinking water and for recreation is critical to Seqwater’s operations.”
Till date the in-lake instruments Seqwater used to analyse and monitor water quality could be used in fixed locations only requiring field scientists to travel to difficult-to-access areas in order to monitor and service these instruments. The robot moves from one location to another 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.
“With this new technology in combination with Seqwater’s existing fixed network, water quality monitoring will be more efficient and effective.’’ Dr. Lynham added.
SAMMI was built and tested over the last nine months to follow location and task commands sent from Seqwater staff through a custom tablet-based user interface.
Matt Dunbabin, a robotics professor at QUT who previously unleashed an autonomous killer robot on the Great Barrier Reef, said the 1.7m robot was capable of operating autonomously in waterways collecting water samples and measuring water quality parameters adding that SAMMI is also equipped with sonar capabilities to create maps of each reservoir to better understand the layout and health of the underwater ecosystem.
Other unique features of the robot include the ability to dock into a custom berth to allow for solar recharging and attachments for helicopter lifting into remote, inaccessible areas.
“Whilst SAMMI has taken nine months to build and test, it leverages many years of experience in robotic boat technology for environmental assessment,” Professor Dunbabin said.
Seqwater chief executive Neil Brennan believes partnering with QUT for the project will allow long-term benefits for South East Queensland’s water supply and that the water authority intends continued use of technology to work smarter, not harder in the future saying, “The development and implementation of SAMMI highlights the importance of finding research-based solutions to help best manage South East Queensland’s water supplies.”
Seqwater expects to incorporate SAMMI into its operations over the second half of 2019.
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