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New sensor technologies for environmental monitoring in water

HydroNet robot prototype

The trunk of the capsized Costa Concordia is waiting to be retrieved. Scientists of the EU FP7 project HydroNet see potential for deployment of their newly developed robotic catamaran that is able to identify and measure different chemicals in the water.

Kyrre Sundseth
Kyrre Sundseth, Scientist at NILU – Norwegian Institute for Air Research

HydroNet has been established to develop new environmental monitoring methods related to water. As one of the partner institutes within the project, NILU has arried out cost-benefit assessments of the new technology.

HydroNet technical manager Gabriele Farri explains that by help of these robotic catamarans, real-time water analysis can be carried out autonomously. A range of different scanners and sensors help to navigate the robots through maritime waters and to take water samples. The analysis of environmental hazards such as chromium, cadmium, mercury or mineral oil is carried out on board immediately and the obtained results are transmitted directly to the scientist’s computer by help of wireless technologies.

– With the robot, the authorities may have an immediate picture of the situation and can take necessary measures to prevent leakages of hazards, Kyrre Sundseth explains. He points out: – The main advantage provided by HydroNet is that it is autonomous in performing water sampling and analysis. This allows the elimination of traditional procedures and will save both time and money.

Moreover, since it is autonomous, the HydroNet system allows to define a more precise, distributed, pervasive and timely intensive monitoring plan. The robots can execute a predefined monitoring plan without or just with some human intervention. They can operate on a continuous basis both by performing analysis in the same place or in different places at defined time in order to detect and predict risk situations or to find a pollutant source, Sundseth explains. The quantitative and qualitative evidence from cost and benefits analysis that NILU has performed, points towards net benefits from the HydroNet platform which will fully justify its industrial implementation.

The new approach is now in its testing phase. Future application could include naval accidents such as the one with Costa Concordia, to test whether mineral oil or other hazardous substances have been released into the environment. New sensor technologies will support the development of new technologies in all fields of future environmental monitoring.

Link to video by REUTERS