Scientists with one of Arizona’s largest utilities, Salt River Project, are teaming up with professors from Arizona State University in an effort to autonomously monitor, collect and evaluate water quality using drones and soft robotics. According to SRP’s website, it provides reliable, affordable water and power to more than 2 million people living in central Arizona.
Wenlong Zhang, an assistant professor at ASU said, “This is a hexocopter with six propellors. It is equipped with both high level onboard computers, as well as low level auto pilot to control the drone position and orientation.”
The team is also developing submersible drones. SRP senior scientist Mike Ploughe said,”They would have dedicated canal segments that they would be patrolling and sending us back information. If they find anything out of the ordinary under water… quality, perimeter, it would let us know and we could respond accordingly.”
The new technology is also expected to save both time and money since it can take up to a full week for staff to commute long distances and take samples from the canal’s collection sites. Ploughe stated, “We also have stationary locations that are measuring water quality in real time for us. So by having this other technology, we might be able to fill in those gaps and have more consistent, higher resolution water quality information for our customers.”
Although the developments are still in the early stages, those associated with the project are predicting that the technology could be operational within the next 10 years.