REMOTE FLOOD MONITORING SAVES LIVES
Written on the 14 May 2012
A REMOTE monitoring company is upbeat that a three-year contract with the State Government will help avoid a repeat of the devastation caused by the 2011 Queensland floods.
Brendan Doyle (pictured) is fascinated by the weather and loves analysing detailed information at his fingertips through the rapidly expanding network of Eagle Eye monitoring units.
The founding RMTek managing director confirms he has secured a three-year contract with the Department of Transport and Main Roads to distribute the solar and wireless visual monitoring technology through Sydney-based traffic solutions group Boylan.
“They first used the technology in late 2010 on the Cunningham Highway between Brisbane and Warwick," he says.
“We now have a total of 15 units covering more than 160,000sqm of the Darling Downs near Toowoomba, Dalby, Moonie, Condamine, Westmar, Goondiwindi, Yelarbon, Inglewood, Leyburn and Jondaryan.
“We are looking to have more in floodprone areas which can detect rain, humidity, solar radiation, wind, road spill and temperature.”
Doyle developed the technology while working for the University of New England’s Institute for Rural Futures in the New South Wales town of Armidale.
He has partnered with Telstra to operate the Eagle Eye units on Next G and satellite wireless networks, allowing clients to remotely monitor data in real-time and servers to automatically send an SMS or email notification when safety margins are exceeded.
“Communities downstream from major flooding can get accurate up-to-the-minute information on just how fast and high the flooding is, giving them time to act on saving property, lives and important livestock,” says Doyle.
“The scope of what can be achieved with these four elements of solar power, image capture, telemetry and wireless is massive. It can free people from many mundane tasks and I think we are only seeing the tip of the iceberg so far.”
The company established in 2008 employs seven staff and turned over more than $1 million in the 2011 financial year. Doyle shows no sign of letting up, confirming he has held talks with three or four mining executives on how they can use the technology.
“Up until now demand has been fuelled by the roads sector, but we are becoming exposed to the mining sector– that presents a big opportunity,” he says.
“We have set up two units along Mackay’s Suttor Developmental Road, which has between 300 and 500 movements a day but was recently flooded three times. We helped freight companies know exactly what was happening so they could divert trucks without sending people out there at a great cost.”
According to Doyle, the starting price of a unit fully fitted with a camera, sensing equipment and an eight-metre-high pole is $20,000 plus monitoring charges of at least $100 a month. He believes the amount provides a good return on investment.
“You can reduce wear, tear and travel costs by minimising the need to get people on the road to monitor water levels,” he says.
“We can also detect mechanical failure and theft at irrigation pumping stations by using flow-rate sensors to monitor the height of diesel in the fuel tank. It sets off an alarm when a hose is broken or someone tries to remove some fuel.”
Eagle Eye units can also be used for managing remote water supplies, livestock and feral animals as well as monitoring wetlands and railway tracks.
“The flood monitoring is an ideal example of what the system delivers. The scope of what can be achieved with these four elements of solar power, image capture, telemetry and wireless is massive. It can free people from many mundane tasks and I think we are only seeing the tip of the iceberg so far,” says Doyle.
“What the system offers is a remote, easy to operate, ‘brain in the field’ through a combination of the flexibility of our software and the intelligence of our sensors.”
The technology can also be used for observing rock falls, breeding programs and security breaches among others.