These sensor-laden, robotic swans could one day provide essential, real-time water testing in reservoirs around the world.
The next time you see a swan swimming around a nearby lake or pond, you may want to look again, especially if you live in Singapore. That’s because researchers are employing robotic swans as a way to conduct water testing in reservoirs around the country, and eventually, the world.
Though the idea was first conceived back in 2010 in collaboration with the country’s water agency PUB, the National University of Singapore team only began piloting the so-called NUSwan last year. Equipped with a series of sensors and actuators, the robotic bird moves about the water while monitoring conditions like pH, dissolved oxygen, turbidity and chlorophyll to determine whether there are problems with the source.
Among the advanced technology embedded inside the lifelike animal is a fresh water phosphate sensor, which happens to be the brainchild of a separate NUS team. Phosphates are key nutrients in the development of blue-green algal blooms, which can be devastating for reservoirs. Fortunately, sensor-laden swans would be able to provide immediate alerts to such murky bodies of water, allowing officials to quickly respond to a contamination. As Channel NewsAsia points out, a proliferation of algal blooms caused thousands of fish to die earlier this year.
The swans are equipped with GPS for navigation, which its creators reveal is much more advanced than a Roomba, and will not duplicate an area unless otherwise programmed. For hours on end, the autonomous bird swims around, collecting and sending wireless data to researchers through the cloud in real-time. It can also be controlled both via online and a handheld RC device. And just like a robotic vacuum, NUSwan will return back to its docking station and recharge after a day’s work.
On top of all that, the NUSwan platform is entirely scalable.