A new remote control boat has been transforming the way the Environment Agency measures the tide and depth of the North East’s rivers.

Environment Agency officers gained a new insight into the Tyne whilst getting information for the Cultural Olympiad ‘~Flow’ project using the ARC (Acoustic Remote Control) boat.
Gathering vital information

‘~Flow’ is a floating mill that will sit on the River Tyne and use tidal water to generate its own power, funded by the UK Arts Council. The ARC boat was used to gather data on the tidal cycle to ensure the mill can work as efficiently as possible.

The boat works by sending out acoustic pulses which hit the water and then return information on water speed and depth across sections of the river.

Results sent back to the boat showed the impact tide waters were having as far up the river as Newcastle Quayside.

Environment Agency hydrologist Gemma Nixon said : “It’s been really exciting to get the boat up and running. This is the largest volume of water we’ve been able to record using the equipment and the highest ever recorded across our region.

“We wanted to see the difference in water speed and depth during a high and low tide cycle and the technicians took advantage of ideal conditions and gauged the full width of the Tyne.”

The high tide measured 906 cubic metres per second compared to 116 cubic metres per second during a low tide. To put this into context 906 cubic metres is the equivalent of a million wine bottles flowing under the millennium bridge every second.
Having a new insight

Gemma said: “The data produced gives us a detailed picture of what’s happening beneath the surface, up to a 15 metre depth. The ARC boats are the greatest advance in our ability to understand rivers for decades.”

Ed Carter, project lead on Flow said : "It's really important for us to have accurate data about the river, so we can make sure our team is making all the correct calculations in developing the project.

“It's been a real pleasure working with the Environment Agency, and we really can't thank them enough for all the support they've given us on the project."

By using the ARC Boat, the use of a manual boat and Environment Agency trained crew to get these measurements is no longer necessary, bringing great efficiency savings.
What next?

Gemma said: “One of the ways we’ll now use this data is with our fisheries team. These areas of fast flowing water may provide an insight to fish migration routes through the estuary.”

The Environment Agency has 17 ARC boats across the country, each designed for UK rivers and manufactured in the UK, saving £6,000 per boat compared to those used in the USA.