Seqwater and QUT develop autonomous water monitoring robot

Seqwater, the statutory water authority of the Queensland government, has worked with robotic researchers at QUT’s Institute for Future Environments to develop the Autonomous Motorised Monitoring Instrument, or SAMMI.

Natural Resources Minister Dr Anthony Lynham said that the solar-powered, self-driving robot has the capacity to change the way Seqwater monitors it’s water quality.

“Water quality monitoring for drinking water and for recreation is a critical to Seqwater’s operations,’’ Dr Lynham said.

“Until now, the in-lake instruments Seqwater used to analyse and monitor water quality could only be used in fixed locations. This meant the field scientists had to travel to difficult-to-access areas in order to monitor and service the instruments.

“With this new technology in combination with Seqwater’s existing fixed network, water quality monitoring will be more efficient and effective.’’

QUT Researcher Professor Matt Dunbabin said the 1.7m robot was capable of operating autonomously in waterways, collecting water samples and measuring water quality parameters, as well as creating sonar maps of each reservoir.

Other unique features of the robot include the ability to dock into a custom berth to allow for solar recharging and attachments for helicopter lifting into remote, inaccessible areas.

“Whilst SAMMI has taken nine months to build and test, it leverages many years of experience in robotic boat technology for environmental assessment,” Professor Dunbabin said.

Seqwater Chief Executive Officer Neil Brennan said partnering on research projects with universities like QUT provided long-term benefits for South East Queensland’s water supply.

“The development and implementation of SAMMI highlights the importance of finding research-based solutions to help best manage South East Queensland’s water supplies,” Brennan said.

“As technology evolves it provides us with the fantastic opportunities to incorporate cutting edge solutions and help us work smarter.”

SAMMI operates by following location and task commands preloaded using a custom tablet-based user interface.

The robot moves from one location to another using a range of GPS and obstacle avoidance sensors and then collects water samples and other water quality information before returning to base.

This allows operation anytime of the day or night, rain or sunshine.

Seqwater expects to incorporate SAMMI into its operations over the second half of 2019.