Department of Homeland Security Flood Apex Program Evaluating, Testing Low Cost IoT Flood Sensors in North Carolina

The Department of Homeland Security – through its Flood Apex Program – is working with three vendors to evaluate, design, and test low-cost Internet of Things (IoT) flood sensors around the state of North Carolina. 75 flood gauge sensors have recently been installed  to test their ability to provide emergency management workers and first responders with early detection of flooding.

According to Dr. David Alexander, DHS S&T Flood Apex Program Director, “The goal is to provide a bridge between industry and local governments, while simultaneously performing real-world research and development.”

The sensors were designed to provide a low-cost, highly reliable, modular, wireless sensor network and notification system that can be deployed for years at a time with little or no maintenance. The sensors have a variety of communications capabilities, energy harvesting and recharge, imagery collection, triggered reporting and data transmissions, as well as durable form factors for harsh environments. Typically, flood sensors can run up to $20,000 but this new sensor is expected to cost less than $1,000 per unit. The devices are to be clustered in flood-prone areas, near existing U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), state or county flood sensors.

Dr. Alexander explained that, “by co-locating the new devices in these watershed areas, S&T is able to measure the performance of the competing company’s gauges against one another and against a higher-order, scientific grade control gauge (the USGS sensor).”

Community members in Lumberton have seen severe flood issues in the past two years, due to Hurricane Matthew and Florence. The devices are expected to help people evacuate on time and know which roads around the area are flooded.

“To be able to use these low cost gauges it will give us the opportunity to put more gauges across the state, which will enable us to provide information to more people, more areas, in a quicker reaction during flood events,” said Gary Thompson interim risk management chief in the city of Lumberton. “We’re testing a variety of different things with the gauges, how they perform under different weather conditions and how they communicate.”

The flood gauges will remain in place for six months while they are being tested.