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With successful execution an airborne system such as this would also be able to directly chase-down the plume’s point of origin leading to quick response in sealing the leak, preventing further pollution and loss of capitol from the gas escaping into the atmosphere.
THE CHALLENGE

Monitor methane levels in three dimensions to track and trace coal-seam gas leaks

THE SOLUTION

Create a lightweight system for UAV deployment to track atmospheric methane levels in real-time to create high precision three-dimensional tracking of coal-seam gas plume movements and trace its origin.

INTRODUCTION

After previously extending the tracking capabilities of their ground-based methane monitoring systems, the CSIRO Energy Division approached us again, now to develop an airborne system that would allow for three-dimensional tracking of methane cloud movements in real time giving them access to further benefits such as movement within environments their ground based system could not get to, as well as being able to position the sensor within the plume itself for high measurement accuracies.

The system would need to track and log methane levels in the atmosphere to a very high accuracy while also transmitting them over long range WiFi to a ground station system for live monitoring and flight planning.

Robotics Systems’ work in field robotics meant we already had a reliable and capable UAV; the Titan MkV with high levels of safety and redundancy for transporting high value payloads. However, the maximum payload weight is 4.5kg.

Figure 1: Titan MkV UAV

With successful execution an airborne system such as this would also be able to directly chase-down the plume’s point of origin leading to quick response in sealing the leak, preventing further pollution and loss of capitol from the gas escaping into the atmosphere.

CREATING AN AIRBORNE SENSOR

The latest technology in this field is the Microportable Greenhouse Gas Analyzer from Los Gatos Research. A 6kg ground based sensor with methane measurement precisions to a maximum of 1 part per billion every 10 seconds. Our open integration platform designed for the Titan MkV allow for easy integration with its power and communication systems

Figure 2: LGR Greenhouse Gas Analyser

The designed method for data acquisition on the LGR system is to log the data to internal storage ready for transfer to over USB for post-measurement analysis

To achieve the live data stream the data from the LGR system was forwarded through to a National Instruments sbRIO 9607 for logging and transmission over the Titan MkV’s long range WiFi system.

Through the LabVIEW software package, an extension to the Titan MkV’s ground station could be created to display the live data being transmitted for analysis and monitoring using live graphing tools.

Figure 3: Groundstation Monitoring Software

This allowed us to easily integrate real-time measurement data from a range of devices involved in the Methane analysis system and keeps the door open for further measurement integration from future add on devices such as an anemometer or laser range-finder for increased data validity

The National Instruments sbRIO 9607 combined with the LabVIEW software package allowed for very rapid design and deployment of the required systems for a full integration project.

TRACKING METHANE PLUMES

The system commercial and scientific value is currently being assessed by the CSIRO Energy Division, however its ability to track atmospheric methane levels with GPS relevance in real-time is assured.

The project and its future is ongoing with possible improvements around automated plume tracking logic or further sensor developments for reduced weights and increased flight times.

AUTHOR INFORMATION

Adam Amos
Director | Robotic Systems
19/3 Frost Drive
Mayfield West, NSW, 2304
Australia
Tel: (02) 49671072
contact@roboticsystems.com.au

SPECIFICATIONS

  • Live data transmission of 4G or long-range WiFi
  • Back-up onboard data logging system
  • 3D positioning and tracking of gas readings
  • Measurement precision of 1 part per billion
  • 5kg payload weight

Figure 4: Integrated Methane Analyser Payload