Testing a model of sensors to register ocean currents and temperature

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WAVY drifters also allow to monitor the collected data in real time and remotely

The UPC’s Technological Development Centre for Remote Acquisition and Data Processing Systems (SARTI) participates in developing a model of buoys with sensors to register ocean currents and temperature. The devices are currently being tested. They will be of great scientific value and will provide information on the most dangerous areas of the coast that will help raise awareness of the risks posed to swimmers.

Mar 26, 2020

The Technological Development Centre for Remote Acquisition and Data Processing Systems (SARTI) of the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya · BarcelonaTech (UPC) on the Vilanova i la Geltrú Campus has been working for two years to develop sensors with longer autonomy to register ocean currents and temperature for as long as possible. The data collected by these small buoy-shaped devices called WAVY drifters will help create predictive models, which will be highly useful from a scientific point of view. The research team has tested the prototypes at the Platja del Far beach in Vilanova i la Geltrú.

WAVY drifters, which are now in the testing stage, have been developed within the framework of the European project Multi-sensor Extra Light Oceanography Apparatus (MELOA), funded by the Horizon 2020 programme, to improve current ocean observing and monitoring systems. They can be used in different marine environments, from the open sea to coastal areas, shores and water sports venues. They feature accelerometers and temperature and pressure sensors. They are designed to be partially submerged to reduce the effect of direct wind. They are also equipped with a GPS, so that data collected can be monitored remotely in real time.

 

Rip currents, a coastal danger

Monitoring surface currents and their dynamic characteristics is important to identify the areas where rip currents are common and measure the danger posed to swimmers. WAVY drifters could help rescue teams to locate the most dangerous coastal areas and raise awareness among the community of the risks involved.

Apart from measuring ocean currents, they are also used for measuring littoral currents near the coast. One of the most dangerous types of currents at beaches are rip currents—or simply rips—which move directly away from the shore several meters towards the open sea. They are one of the main causes of accidents at beaches.

Data provided by WAVY drifters during offshore testing campaigns are also used to calibrate and validate satellite-based Earth observation systems, such as the GEOSS and Copernicus programmes, which study surface currents and temperatures based on satellite measurements and require on-site measurement data to validate their results.

Local secondary school students were invited to the recent campaign, which was carried out in coordination with the Vilanova i la Geltrú City Council and the Espai Far museum, to evaluate the operation of WAVY Littoral, the specific device for coastal and littoral control.

According to Joaquin del Río, a researcher at SARTI, “the tests have a dual purpose: first, to carry out real tests to verify the correct operation of the sensors, that is, from the sensors themselves to the data infrastructure that supports registering and viewing the movement of the sensors, and second, to make the population aware of the dangers of these currents”. In a few months, WAVY Oceanics—another of the devices developed—will enter the testing stage.

The MELOA project is managed by a consortium composed of universities—including the UPC—organisations and companies.