About Transformative Sensor Technologies and Smart Watersheds (TTSW)

TTSW is a multi-disciplinary research project led by Claude Duguay at the University of Waterloo. The project objectives fall into two Work Packages (WP). The first focuses on developing terrestrial (ground-based) sensors and ‘smart’ sensor networks, while the second aims to improve drone, aircraft, and satellite-based remote sensing.

WP1: Terrestrial sensors and ‘smart’ sensor networks

Project lead: David Rudolph

The first goal of this WP is to improve measurements of environmental parameters in cold regions through the development and improvement of ground-based sensors. These sensor systems will employ approaches such as active acoustic sensing, ultrasonic sensing, and Raman spectroscopy. These techniques will allow researchers to collect improved measurements of snowpack structure, water pollutants, and more at locations across Canada.

The second goal is to establish a pan-Canadian network of hydrologic field observatories to support environmental monitoring. These stations will provide natural settings to test emerging terrestrial sensors and act as ground truth points for remote sensing systems. The stations will also be outfitted with 'smart transmitters' capable of intra-sensor communication and data logging. This will ultimately allow multiple streams of environmental data to be made available for researchers and end-users in near real-time, even from the most remote sites.

WP2: Drone, aircraft, and satellite-based remote sensing

Project lead: Claude Duguay

The goals of this WP are threefold. The first is to improve drone platforms and sensors for operation in cold weather to provide intermediary-scale measurements needed for environmental monitoring and modelling. Drones provide a way to fill the critical data gap between ground-based field measurements and satellite imagery but are often unable to operate in cold weather. Working closely with industrial partners, TTSW will deploy new cold regions drone platforms outfitted with sensors capable of measuring parameters including snow depth, glacier size, land surface temperature, water level and extent, as well as algal growth in water bodies.

The second goal focuses on improving the quantification of snow water equivalent (SWE) and near-surface soil moisture/freeze-thaw state through the development of a unique Ku and L-band Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) system called CryoSAR. The airborne deployment of this system will allow for these measurements to be taken over large and inaccessible tundra, prairie, and forested expanses. This measurement approach does not exist anywhere else in Canada, U.S.A., or Europe. As such, it will inform an engineering pathway to satellite design for snow and ice monitoring in the future.

The last goal of this WP is to develop the design concept of a microsatellite mission for freshwater quality monitoring. Working closely with industrial partners, TTSW will explore the possibility of a mission which will carry a multispectral sensor and reflectometer for monitoring water quality properties, snow, and soil moisture. This mission design may also include 'smart' sensors which would allow for onboard data processing and direct communication between the satellite and our hydrologic observatories.