A monitoring unit is installed on the Leichhardt Highway 35km north of Goondiwindi.
A monitoring unit is installed on the Leichhardt Highway 35km north of Goondiwindi. Contributed

Flood sensors provide timely video

A COLLECTION of 15 otherwise innocuous eight-metre poles now placed along selected Queensland roads are making the difference between flood disasters and fatal accidents occurring during the Queensland's wet season.

They are providing advance information and warnings of impending flooded road locations as waters rise in certain areas.

Atop each of the 15 poles is a solar powered wireless sensor unit and digital camera that remotely monitors roads, causeways, bridges, creeks and rivers prone to flooding.

They deliver 24/7 visual and telemetry monitoring of potentially dangerous locations for the Queensland Department of Transport & Main Roads across more than 160,000km2 of the Darling Downs.

The solar powered system, developed and manufactured by Australian company, RMTek, includes a remote controlled rotating camera, sensors, telemetry capabilities, and crucial to the system constantly delivering information powerful wireless connectivity and cloud computing through Telstra Next G network coverage.

The images and data captured are sent wirelessly to RMTek headquarters but are accessible at any time by the client from anywhere in the world where there's internet access.

Managing director Brendan Doyle said the system's constant visual access to changing circumstances means roads, bridges and floodways can be remotely monitored to ensure the departments efficient response to incidents affecting the road network.

"The sensor's mean department staff do not have to continuously travel for hours to remote locations to check on water levels around roads and structures. This means greater safety for staff and the travelling public, as well as more accurate and up to date information on road conditions," Mr Doyle said.

"The telemetry capability monitors to within centimetres the rising and falling heights of water through a location."

Mr Doyle said the department had identified a number of remote locations across the Darling Downs region that can be very dangerous when flooded if drivers attempt to cross them. Other busy highways like the Leichhardt and Gore highways are also subject to flooding from heavy rains.

As of this morning, real-time sensor readings from the system have identified water over bridge crossings that were dry as night fell on Tuesday. 

"The Roma to Condamine road has been cut over-night (on Tuesday) with two metres of water covering the bridge at Dogwood Creek," Mr Doyle reported.

"Also, at least one bridge crossing on the Surat Development Road near The Gums had up to a third of a metre of water on it.
"The combination of the remote connectivity through Next G and RMTek's solar powered vision and data gathering through the units is unique."

The department is now looking at installing further devices in the next 12 months which will concentrate on water level monitoring and will be more closely calibrated for more accurate measurements.

The systems can also be used for remote water management and wetland monitoring, farming equipment, railway tracks (rock falls, subsidence), livestock management including breeding programs, feral management capture, site monitoring and security, among a range of applications.

Mr Doyle was part of the team that developed the idea while he was working at the Institute for Rural Futures at the University of New England in Armidale.

"The flood monitoring is an ideal example of what the system delivers," he said.

"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.
"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."

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