Friday, 20 November 2015

Remote-controlled robots, lasers and solar-powered cameras: the Environment Agency's fight against flooding

Parts of northern England have experienced severe flooding this week, with the Environment Agency issuing 72 flood warnings for locations across the UK. As part of its efforts to warn businesses to prepare themselves for extreme weather, the Environment Agency has also unveiled a range of James Bond-style gadgets that it will be using to combat potential flooding this winter.

Mr Nosey, the remote-controlled robot

The Environment's Agency's flood-fighting armoury includes lasers, solar-powered cameras and incident command vehicles but it's real secret weapon is a remote-controlled robot called Mr Nosey! Designed to find the causes of flooding that people can't reach such as blocked tunnels and underground culverts, Mr Nosey allows Environment Agency staff to assess blockages via a camera on its nose. Weighing 66lbs to prevent it from being swept away, the robot is also small enough to fit into spaces as small as 6cm in diameter.

Lasers and solar-powered cameras

As part of their quest to fight the floods, the Environment Agency will also be using lasers to map and scan the English landscape from above, collecting data to be used for flood modelling and to track changing coastal habits and solar-powered cameras to monitor water levels in at-risk areas. These cameras are linked to Twitter so that residents who have opted into the service receive Tweet-alerts in the event that water levels rise significantly.

On the water

Another robot, the "Robomower" is a remote-controlled grass cutter that will be deployed to keep grass and bushes on sheep grass flood banks under control and will work closely with the Environment Agency's weed cutting boat to maintain the flow of rivers and prevent blockages that cause flooding. Also on the water, tiny ARC (Acoustic Remote Controlled) boats use tiny ultrasound pulses to gather information about how much water is flowing in rivers - data which is then used to keep an eye on river levels and predict when flooding is likely to occur. These specialised boats can be used on areas of a river that it can be hazardous to reach otherwise, such as under bridges or in fast flowing currents.

The Thames Barrier

Finally, the Thames Barrier near Woolwich plays an essential role in prevention against flooding in the capital, protecting around £200 billion of assets in London including 500,000 properties, the City's financial and business centre and 1.25 million people living and working within London. When raised into a position of defence across the Thames, the Barrier's 10 steel gates stand as high as a five-storey building and as wide as the opening of the Tower Bridge.

It's great to know that the Environment Agency are prepared with a full range of high-tech devices to help predict and prevent floods occurring in the UK. To find out whether there's a flood risk in your area you can visit the Agency's website at http://apps.environment-agency.gov.uk/flood/31618.aspx.

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