News‎ > ‎

Robotic Sensor Technology to Track Oil Spills

posted Sep 7, 2011, 10:31 AM by Cesar Harada
via Peter Keen

At Clarkson University, USA, researchers James S. Bonner and Temitope O. Ojo have acquired an autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) equipped with sensors that are capable of detecting and tracking plumes of hydrocarbon in the aftermath of an oil spill.

Clarkson University Spill Tracking AUV deployment 

The instrument will aid emergency response activities in the event of an oilspill and was obtained through use of a USD200,000 MRI-RAPID grant from the National Science Foundation for their research 'Development of Surface and Submerged Oil Detector using Fluorescence and Laser Light Scattering.'


According to Bonner, a leading expert in oil spill response and countermeasures research, the team will also integrate sensors, which have been in development within the Clarkson research laboratories, into the robotic vehicle. "Deployed on the AUV are water quality sensors for measuring dissolved oxygen, conductivity, temperature, turbidity and hydrocarbon in addition to sensors for navigation: Doppler velocity log, GPS and compass," says Bonner. "In the future, an expanded payload will accommodate sonar, as well as fluorescence and laser light scattering sensors being developed here at Clarkson."


The Rapid Response Research (RAPID) initiative of the National Science Foundation is a special grant mechanism specifically aimed at unusual circumstances where a timely response is essential to achieving research objectives.


The RAPID mechanism was made available under the Major Research Instrumentation (MRI) programme in the wake of the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.


Image: Clarkson University environmental science and engineering graduate student Elysia Taylor and civil and environmental engineering graduate student James Paley complete final system checks on the new autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) EcoMapper prior to a test deployment. The AUV, which was acquired by Clarkson researchers through an NSF grant, is equipped with sensors capable of detecting and tracking plumes of hy

drocarbon in the aftermath of an oil spill.