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May 11th, 2012
Floating Robots Use GPS-enabled Smartphones to Track Water Flow

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A fleet of 100 floating robots took a trip down the Sacramento River in a field test organized by engineers at the University of California, Berkeley. The smartphone-equipped floating robots demonstrated the 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, led by associate professor Alexandre Bayen, a researcher at the Center for Information Technology Research in the Interest of Society (CITRIS), offers a network of mobile sensors that 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. Today’s field test gave researchers a picture of how water moves through a junction in the river with a resolution never before achieved.

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