How IoT sensors are helping protect and conserve beluga whales in Alaska
In 2017, a natural gas leak was detected six kilometres off the coast of Nikiski in Alaska. The leak impinged on a critical habitat for endangered beluga whales. The Alaskan authorities sought ways to assess and manage the leakage, and its impact upon the whale population.
Aridea Solutions in West Virginia, a developer of environmental technologies, responded to its call, and hashed out a blueprint for a robust buoy-mounted internet-of-things (IoT) monitoring system within a few hours. The buoy would be equipped with sensors to measure parameters in the air and water.
An IoT platform was deployed over the top to consolidate and disseminate the data over an 900MHz LoRaWAN connection. The buoy and sensors were designed to withstand extreme conditions, including ice coverage and movements.
It was a lightning quick turn-around. Two weeks after picking up the phone, Aridea Solutions’s buoy-mounted monitoring system arrived in Nikiski.
The work consisted of monitoring methane, oxygen and carbon dioxide levels above the surface of the water, and dissolved methane, dissolved oxygen and several other parameters directly beneath the surface of the water.
RKI Instruments provided certain sensors for the monitoring elements in the air, including also volatile organic compounds (VOC) and the lowest-percentage concentrations of each gas to produce a flash or fire (LEL). Pro Oceanus and In-Situ provided water-based sensors for the same gases.
A wireless sensor platform from Spain-based Libelium was also deployed to monitor air and water near the leak, and to enable aggregation and transmission of data to a gateway on a nearby ship, up to two miles away.
The gateway aggregated the information received from the buoy and sent the data to Aridea’s Terralytix platform via a 4G cellular connection, where it was available for scientific analysis.
The buoy system was crucial for analysing the environmental impacts of the leak until repairs were completed. Environmental parameters should be continuously monitored and inter-linked in real time, reckons Aridea Solutions, to help deliver better environmental and industrial outcomes.