Artificial “fish-sensors” have been collecting scientific information about their “living” brethren for several years. However, they will soon master another profession. The US Department of Energy has developed a new model for environmental monitoring of hydropower plants around the world.
The sensor fish is a joint development of the Pacific Northwest Laboratory (PNNL) and Advanced Telemetry Systems (ATS). The man-made fish is about 9 cm long and outwardly does not resemble its natural prototype.
Like ordinary salmon, the sensor fish has to overcome the dams of the hydroelectric power station, which takes about two minutes on average. During this time, it takes about 2000 measurements per second, collecting important information about what is happening inside the hydraulic units. This will allow the development of more gentle turbines that will not cripple migratory fish.
As soon as the sensor fish is below the dam, it activates a radio beacon and LEDs, thanks to which it can be easily found and picked up from the boat.
Earth-wide fish migration is negatively affected by global warming, making it unpredictable. Today it is impossible to foresee when a large accumulation of fish will pass through the dam. That is why, in addition to robotic sensors, ATS is developing JSATS telemetry tag technology. It will help track the movements of fish schools through dams and further into the open ocean.