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SAMMI the robot sets sail to safeguard Seqwater’s water supply

A self-driving, solar-powered vehicle is changing Seqwater’s approach to routine water quality monitoring and the types of information the utility can collect.

SAMMI, or Seqwater’s Autonomous Motorised Monitoring Instrument, uses GPS and obstacle-avoidance sensors to manoeuvre itself into hard-to-access locations.

It follows location and task commands that have been preloaded using a tablet, and collects water samples and other water quality information before returning to base.

The 1.7m robot can also create sonar maps of each reservoir and dock at a custom berth for solar recharging, and has an attachment that allows it to be lifted into remote areas via a helicopter.

Seqwater partnered with Queensland University of Technology (QUT)’s Institute for Future Environments to develop SAMMI, and robotics professor Matt Dunbabin said the project would have a big impact on the utility’s operations.

“Whilst SAMMI has taken nine months to build and test, it leverages many years of experience in robotic boat technology for environmental assessment,” Dunbabin said.

SAMMI follows location and task commands that have been preloaded using a tablet.

The instruments Seqwater has traditionally used to analyse and monitor water quality can only be employed in fixed locations, which means field scientists have to travel to these areas to monitor and service the instruments.

But this isn’t always possible. For example, the water level might be too low to launch a boat, or too high that venturing onto the water is a safety risk.

The new technology, in combination with Seqwater’s existing fixed network, will make water quality monitoring more efficient and effective.

Seqwater CEO Neil Brennan said partnering on research projects with universities like QUT would provide long-term benefits for South East Queensland’s water supply.

“The development and implementation of SAMMI highlights the importance of finding research-based solutions to help best manage South East Queensland’s water supplies,” Brennan said.

“As technology evolves it provides us with fantastic opportunities to incorporate cutting-edge solutions and help us work smarter.”

Seqwater said it expects to begin using SAMMI later this year.