To keep an eye on the quality of the water in California, a team from the University of California, Berkeley has developed robots that don't just swim around, they tweet their findings. The Floating Sensor Network is a new approach to measuring water quality, ditching fixed location sensors for mobile units that can monitor a variety of locations.
The team, headed by Alexandre Bayen from the Center for Information Technology Research in the Interest of Society (CITRIS) released 100 of the robots into the Sacramento River on May 9. The Sacramento-San Joaquin river system contains two thirds of the state's fresh water, the majority of Californians' drinking and irrigation supply.
Because the robots, which are equipped with GPS units, float with the water (and those with propellers can move freely), they provide a more dynamic and detailed understanding of the state of the river water. Even better, they use Twitter to report what they find, under the handle @fsnandroid61.
1336599095: Android drifter A61 retrieved, welcome back!GPS: 628512.7305855866E 4233258.411490787N— fsn.android.61 (@fsnandroid61) May 9, 2012
For now, the newly-released robots are measuring salinity, pollution and water flow. Future versions could be modified to test for various chemicals, and be released in emergency situations such as levee failures or contaminant spills, to provide a real-time breakdown what's going on.