Robotic swans are being deployed in Singapore’s reservoirs to provide real-time assessments of water quality. The project is the culmination of work by the city state’s national water agency and the National University of Singapore.
Despite the best efforts of conscientious scientists, not all IoT solutions blend into their environments. Technology and utility tend to be prioritized over aesthetics. Unless you live or work near Singapore’s Marina, Punggol, Serangoon, Pandan and Kranji reservoirs, that is.
A joint project involving national water agency PUB, the National University of Singapore’s (NUS) Environmental Research Institute and the Tropical Marine Science Institute aims to gather data in a less conspicuous manner.
An elegant IoT solution
Designing a robotic swan that’s convincing to the human eye – albeit from a distance – is one thing. But the team behind the project has also fit each swan with all the tools it needs to move around reservoirs and sample water quality.
Using wireless technology, each swan is able to transmit live results to PUB, removing the need for teams to be sent out to take samples manually.
According to Channel News Asia, the SWAN project (Smart Water Assessment Network) will be used to monitor the City State’s fresh water pH, dissolved oxygen, turbidity and chlorophyll. All of these elements are used to determine the overall water quality.
Professor Mandar Chitre a member of the team behind SWAN from the National University of Singapore, said, “we started with a number of smaller bird models before we decided on the swan. It’s just the right size. If you look at it in the environment, it looks just like a swan swimming around.”
Water-based robots combine with IoT once again
This is not the first time that scientists have looked to the natural world for inspiration when designing robots for use in water.
Last year, a similar project from EPFL in Switzerland developed a robotic eel to report on the water quality in Lake Geneva. Unlike the SWAN project, EPFL’s Envirobot was designed to mimic the movement of its real-life equivalent. But both have provided researchers with a way to measure water quality remotely.
With the addition of more data points and increased autonomy, it may not be long before more of these robots are spotted roaming our rivers, reservoirs and oceans.