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Aussie Develop “Drifter” Devices To Help Track Floodwaters



Scientists from Australia’s Queensland University of Technology (QUT), have developed a series of portable devices, which in the event of a flood, can be released into the water to collect data and give authorities an edge in coordinating their response.

“The portable devices, which can be dropped by helicopters into floodwaters, can make it possible to get vital information on a river’s height and pace of flow as it happens,’’ Chief Mechanical Engineer, Prof. Richard Brown, said on Wednesday.

The “drifters” as they are called, are small computers encased in PVC, which float just slightly above the water’s surface, sending data in real time via Bluetooth or SIM card.

The fixed nature of current flood devices makes it difficult to determine what is occurring with floodwaters in real time, compared to the drifters which travel with the water to provide instantaneous and extensive feedback.

“So suddenly the water temperature has gone up or suddenly the drifter is going in a different direction and you can see what is happening on a map on a computer,’’ Brown said.

The catalyst for the system came in 2011 when catastrophic floods hit the Australian state of Queensland, costing 33 lives and causing billions of dollars of damage.

During those floods, when the QUT campus was inundated with surging flood waters, Brown and colleagues dispatched a device attached by rope and started recording data, spawning the idea for the drifter.

“Projecting forward to the next flood, we will be able to make better emergency response decisions, telling people when to evacuate.

“By monitoring the data in real time, we can see what is actually happening,’’ Brown said.

According to him, the devices are currently undergoing field trials.





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