- Title: SINGAPORE-ROBOT SWAN Clean water thanks to robot swans
- Date: 19th August 2015
- Summary: SET UP ROUTE FOR NUSWAN NUSWAN PROGRESS ON SET UP ROUTE
- Embargoed: 3rd September 2015 13:00
- Location: Singapore
- Country: Singapore
- Topics: General
- Reuters ID: LVABTWGK2NL316AHXJ4VSSWD9UTM
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: Researchers in Singapore have created a robotic swan that effectively monitors the water quality in reservoirs without disturbing the serenity of its natural environment.
The National University of Singapore (NUS), in collaboration with the Singapore national water agency (PUB), started the project about six years ago when a colleague of Mandar Chitre, Head Of The Acoustic Research Lab at The Tropical Marine Science Institute, asked him if his Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUV) could be used for water quality monitoring around reservoirs.
Chitre believed it was possible but not an easy solution as it would need a lot of manpower and other monitoring systems to work underwater.
A floating robotic vehicle was the solution, with the form of a swan ideally suited to water monitoring and data transmission.
"The swans being on the surface, they can use GPS, they can use cellular networks, which are existing infrastructure and we can easily add different kind of sensors on them and you can use them pretty much for 24 by seven monitoring, you could have swans take shifts to monitor the water, you get good spatial resolution and you get good temporal resolution," Chitre said.
Chetri dubbed the borot 'NUSwan' and designed it to monitor the levels of different physical and biological compounds such as pH (acidity), dissolved oxygen, turbidity, chlorophyll-a.
Currently in the testing phase, the team has a fleet of three swans powered by an eight hour capacity battery which are each charged overnight.
Every day the swans are put in the water and controlled towards a fixed area in the lake to wait for further instructions.
The instructions can be sent from anywhere either using text message or over the Internet. The user types in the instructions, like the area of the lake to be monitored, and sends the information to the swan which will do the job autonomously.
It can even gather water samples if a remote request is made.
For Chetri, the floating robotic monitoring system, although very promising in what it can do, had to be aesthetically appealing.
"The idea for bird is appealing simply because it blends into the natural environment around the reservoirs. Singapore has been trying to keep the reservoirs to be recreational places, places with a lot of nature so there would be other people around the reservoir, so even kayaking or boating in the reservoirs, it's nice to have something that blends into that rather than have a robotic looking piece of equipment going around doing the monitoring," he added.
Other methods of water monitoring are time consuming and more expensive, says Chetri. Sending boats and manpower to gather water samples can be laborious, and fixed online stations are limited in coverage.
The swan, he says, has the potential to continuously monitor the waters while sending data quickly to researchers. Chitre says his first prototype was a duckling.
"The idea started off with a duck before it was a swan, it just, in the the first phase the duck was a little too small for what we wanted to do and so we decided to go with swans, and people like swans because swans usually like clean waters so there is a natural connotation that you have clean waters when there are swans and so the idea for swans stuck so, while we could make ducks or other birds, people seem to like having swans around," he said.
Chetri said institutions around the region are interested in his project. The China National Engineering Center and the Shanghai Jiaotong University have both expressed interest in using the NUSwan for water surveillance in China in one of the world's largest reservoirs.
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