An Open Surface Drifter for River Flow Field Characterization

Sensors (Basel). 2022 Dec 16;22(24):9918. doi: 10.3390/s22249918.


The continuous observation of flows is required to assess a river’s ecological status, to allocate irrigation withdrawals, to provide sustainable hydropower production and to plan actions as well as develop adaptive management plans. Drifters have the potential of facilitating the monitoring and modeling of river behavior at a fraction of traditional monitoring costs. They are floating objects equipped with sensors able to passively follow the movements of water. During their travel, they collect and transmit information about their movement and their surrounding environment. In this paper, we present and assess a low-cost (<150 EUR) customizable drifter developed with off-the-shelf components. The open drifter is capable of handling the majority of use cases defined in the specialized literature and in addition it offers a general river flow characterization toolkit. One of the main goals of this work is to establish an open hardware and software basis to increase the use of drifters in river studies. Results show that the proposed drifter provides reliable surface velocity estimates when compared to a commercial flow meter, offering a lower cost per data point and in contrast to traditional point measurements it can be used to identify and classify large-scale surface flow patterns. The diverse sensor payload of the open drifter presented in this work makes it a new and unique tool for autonomous river characterization.

PMID:36560288 | PMC:PMC9780804 | DOI:10.3390/s22249918


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