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Application Of An Unmanned Surface Vessel With Ultrasonic, Environmentally Friendly System To (map And) Control Blue-green Algae (cyanobacteria)

Congress: 2015
Author(s): Lisa Brand (Zoetermeer, Netherlands), Mark Haffey
Scottish Water1

Keyword(s): Sub-theme 2: Surface water and groundwater,
AbstractBlooming of blue-green algae in lakes, reservoirs, canals and rivers can cause severe problems with toxicity and impact upon the taste and odor of water. A blue-green algae bloom can cover the complete surface of a water body or can occur only at localized spots where conditions are favorable. This EC funded project will seek to create a system that maps and monitors the characteristics and quality of a water body, in order to localize a blue-green algae bloom and subsequently treat it (by precipitating the algae cells) and neutralize blue-green algae toxins in an environmentally friendly manner using ultrasonic sound waves.

In lakes and reservoirs, species of blue-green algae and their concentrations can vary due to wind or water flow direction and local variations in temperature, light, nutrients and depths. In lakes and reservoirs, hotspots of blue-green algal blooms can be often detected only in one area of the water body whereas other area's do not encounter blue-green algal blooms. Therefore, an important first step is to map the algal concentrations so that we can identify and target algal hotspots.

Through the DRONIC project, an innovative blue-green algae (cyanobacteria) monitoring and treatment robotic system will be developed, that can localize hotpots of blue-green algae blooms and treat only those parts of the lake which is experiencing a blue-green algae bloom. The new water robot concerns the retrieval, prevention and abatement of harmful algae blooms in lakes and in inland water reservoirs used for drinking water production. Because of the direct and localized treatment, the system is environmentally friendly, with a minimal impact on the ecology of the lake.

Measurements directly related to algae concentration will be combined with measures of water quality and dimension related parameters to locate the algae, make an estimation of the local water quality and hydrographic parameters.

This new robotic approach offers the first cost-effective method to control algal blooms in larger lakes, reservoirs, canals and rivers with low water velocity (< 1 m/s). With DRONIC technology, blooms of blue-green algae will be treated locally at the place where the blooms are present and there is no need to treat the complete surface of the lake or reservoir. Through the local use of high power ultrasound waves, cyanobacterial by-products like toxins can be neutralized. The limited weight, size and high flexibility of potentially integrated user payloads, together with a user-friendly control and decision support system, allows DRONIC to be competitive in the market for a broad range of applications. The approach in which robotics in combination with models are used to identify and subsequently treat water quality problems is generic and can be extended to other water quality issues.

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