Remote controlled boat technology assists Angaston's wastewater treatment plant

The 10kg vessel uses sonar navigation technology to remotely survey sludge build-up at the bottom of the Angaston facility’s wastewater lagoons.
The 10kg vessel uses sonar navigation technology to remotely survey sludge build-up at the bottom of the Angaston facility’s wastewater lagoons.

Two innovative remote-controlled boats will navigate Angaston’s wastewater treatment lagoons in an efficient new way to improve sludge management and minimise odour at the facility.

Developed by the University of Western Australia, the 10kg, one metre-long vessels, use sonar navigation technology to remotely survey sludge build-up at the bottom of the Angaston facility’s wastewater lagoons.

According to SA Water, fine sediment that remains suspended in the water after primary treatment stages settles at the bottom of wastewater polishing lagoons to form a sludge.

This is then periodically removed to maintain the lagoons’ holding capacity and minimise the potential for odour to develop.

SA Water’s senior manager production and treatment Lisa Hannant said the new technology was making a vital maintenance task more efficient and enjoyable.

“The boats are controlled in a similar way to other battery-powered model vehicles, with a sonar unit scanning the bottom of the lagoon and recording data to an SD memory card that is then overlaid with a Google Earth map to visually display the sludge depths,” she explained.

The team also had some fun naming the craft with ideas of ‘Indeepship’ and ‘Plop-eye’, through an internal ballot of our wastewater treatment plant operators.

Ms Hannant said, maintaining public health is a serious responsibility, so the team tends to take hold of any lighter moments that pop up.

Professor Anas Ghadouani, University of WA holds the innovative sonar boats with SA Water Michael Corena and Katherine Reid and Liah Coggins, University of WA.

Professor Anas Ghadouani, University of WA holds the innovative sonar boats with SA Water Michael Corena and Katherine Reid and Liah Coggins, University of WA.

SA Water acquired the unique vessels after a successful trial last year confirmed the boats as an accurate and cost effective measurement tool.

“Removing sludge is an important but often time consuming exercise, and this new technology provides a highly efficient way to accurately survey and know when to de-sludge,” she said.

“Until now, our operators would launch a full-sized boat and manually take depth measurements across a grid pattern, but now they can use the sonar to accurately record the sludge’s profile.

“As the sludge layer builds up overtime, the treatment capacity of the facility is reduced and the risk of odour generation increases.

“This technology allows us to identify the optimum time to de-sludge which provides the best value for our customers, maintains optimal treatment and minimises odour risk.”

Angaston’s wastewater treatment plant has the capacity to receive and treat around 430 kilolitres of waste each day on behalf of the community.