City of Glasgow College has been awarded £23,500 to support the ongoing development of a mobile device that will read and analyse water quality.

In collaboration with Altitude Thinking Ltd, founded by electrical engineering graduate, Dale Colley, the project aims to deliver a new prototype – Aquabot 2.0. This drone can be remotely operated on the surface of rivers, canals or lochs to monitor water quality.

The grant of £23,500 was awarded by the Innovation Centre for Sensor and Imaging Systems (CENSIS) who are also contributing their expertise on engineering wirelessly operating IoT devices.

As Dale explains, the device will provide a better understanding of what is happening within our rivers and canals. “It has clear and positive benefits for the environment,” he said.

“The Aquabot is based on a range of sensor technologies. Initial field trials I did with Scottish Canals, monitoring surface water quality, were successful. Using a multi-parameter sensor that can be readily adapted on demand, this device could measure everything from oxygen levels, pH levels, and turbidity, to chemical or biological compounds in the water.

“It offers a fantastic opportunity to radically alter how environmental conditions are monitored in Scotland.”

The Aquabot also presents a huge market opportunity. From 2014 to 2019 the UK’s collection, treatment and supply sector for water quality monitoring was worth £7.3 billion per annum with an annual growth of 2.1%. While businesses that discharge water into the environment are required by law to have a SEPA discharge licence.

Linus Reichenbach, Project Manager for STEM and Innovation at City of Glasgow College, said:

“Dale’s long term ambition for the Aquabot is to include a suite of future capabilities such as sub surface monitoring of inland water, artificial intelligence to detect and remove plastic pollution, and autonomous decision making based on pollution detection. Once on the marketplace, we could eventually see a significant number of these working their way up and down the waterways and sending data back.”

The first Aquabot prototype was designed by Dale with technical and professional support from the college’s Innovation & STEM team and funding through the Scottish Funding Council’s Interface Innovation Voucher scheme.

“After this proof of concept project, we are now ready to develop Aquabot 2.0 which can serve as a full demonstrator model for the company and, potentially, first commercial uses,” said Linus.

Its enhancements from the original concept include:

  • Larger and sturdier body suitable for rougher water and with fully autonomous autopilot
  • Improved sensor set to allow further upgrades and replacements, and a wide range of parameters to enable more detailed and situation specific monitoring
  • Improved communication and IoT connectivity, transferring sensor data directly to a cloud based platform for clients to access
  • Improved data visualisation and reporting functions.

Linus added: “This is the college’s first research project to be funded by a Scottish Innovation Centre. And it is one that provides a great opportunity to contribute to the development of technology that will ultimately lead to a cleaner and safer environment – while continuing to support a former student.”

It is expected that, while development will continue, Aquabot 2.0 will be ready for first commercial activity shortly after the end of the project in the summer of 2021.