Robot Swans: Singapore Government's innovative step to monitor water quality

PU swan
A robot swan monitors water quality at a reservoir in Singapore Edgar Su/Reuters

The Public Utilities Board Singapore headed by Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources announced on Monday that five robotic swans will be used at various reservoirs in Singapore to monitor the water quality. The National Water Agency has named these robots Smart Water Assessment Network (SWAN).

These machines will make use of water monitoring technology to collect real-time data. Interestingly, the agency has designed these robots in the shape of a swan so that they will seemingly blend with the natural surroundings.

Initially, the robotic swans will be used to check the water quality in Marina, Punggol, Serangoon, Pandan, and Kranji reservoirs. According to the Public Utilities Board, these robot swans will help the authorities to collect more data from new reservoirs like Serangoon, Punggol, and Marina.

In older reservoirs like Kranji and Pandan, robot swans will be used to monitor the existing water quality. The National Water Agency believes that algae growth is very higher in these old reservoirs and the deployment of robot swans there will help to analyze the current condition effectively. Through these steps, the Public Utilities Board aims to effectively improve the raw water quality.

The Public Utilities Board has developed these robot swans with the help of National University of Singapore's Environmental Research Institute and the Tropical Marine Science Institute. It was Channel News Asia who first reported the robotic swan project in 2015. Later, National University of Singapore stated that the initial concept of using robotic swans to analyze water quality was first formulated in 2010, and tests began in 2014.

"The robot swan currently carries standard, commercially available sensors for measuring parameters such as Chlorophyll-a, dissolved oxygen, turbidity, and blue-green algae, and can be extended to include new sensors. Combined with real data delivery, the NUSwan potentially serves a wide range of applications, such as water body surveillance, autonomous spot water sampling, and pollutant tracking, and has the potential to be integrated as part of early warning and decision support systems," said the Public Utilities Board on its website.

The research team who developed these robotic swans assure that these machines are very durable, and they will not get damaged even if collisions happen with recreational vehicles and small boats.