A Surface Vessel for Lake Monitoring

The goal of this multi-disciplinary project is to provide unprecedented spatial and temporal coverage of key limnological parameters of Lake Zurich for a better understanding of the mass occurrence and population dynamics of the toxic cyanobacterium Planktothrix rubescens.

We developped an Autonomous Boat equipped with a variety of sensors (temperature, pH, light, oxygen, nutrients, and algal pigments) to allow for the high-frequency monitoring of cyanobacterial spatiotemporal distribution. In parallel, we will develop and apply methods to rapidly assess the contribution of toxic strains to the P. rubescens population. The boat-generated field data will serve

  1. the creation of a lake basin-wide model of P. rubescens development in the context of physico-chemical parameters, and
  2. as a guide to specific (event-driven) manual sampling campaigns and subsequent laboratory analyses, such as strain typing, gene expression of microcystin production and single-cell detection of microcystin concentration.

Limnobotics is a collaboration between the Limnological Station from University of Zurich, and the Autonomous Systems Lab (ASL) from ETH Zurich and was funded by the SNF.

Note: This project is now over and was realized during a formal employment at ETH Zurich, within the ASL. It is used here to showcase reseach competences and to inspire future projects.


  1. Hitz, G., Galceran, E., Garneau, M.-È., Pomerleau, F., & Siegwart, R. (2017). Adaptive continuous-space informative path planning for online environmental monitoring. Journal of Field Robotics, 34(8), 1427–1449.
  2. Hitz, G., Pomerleau, F., Colas, F., & Siegwart, R. (2015). Relaxing the planar assumption: 3D state estimation for an autonomous surface vessel. International Journal of Robotics Research, 34(13), 1604–1621.
  3. Hitz, G., Pomerlesau, F., Colas, F., & Siegwart, R. (2015). State Estimation for Shore Monitoring Using an Autonomous Surface Vessel. In Proceedings of the International Symposium on Experimental Robotics (ISER). Springer Tracts in Advanced Robotics (pp. 745–760). Springer International Publishing.
  4. Hitz, G., Gotovos, A., Pomerleau, F., Garneau, M.-E., Pradalier, C., Krause, A., & Siegwart, R. Y. (2014). Fully autonomous focused exploration for robotic environmental monitoring. In Proceedings of the IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA) (pp. 2658–2664).
  5. Garneau, M.-E., Posch, T., Hitz, G., Pomerleau, F., Pradalier, C., Siegwart, R., & Pernthaler, J. (2013). Short-term displacement of \textitPlanktothrix Rubescens (cyanobacteria) in a pre-alpine lake observed using an autonomous sampling platform. Limnology and Oceanography, 58(5), 1892–1906.
  6. Hitz, G., Pomerleau, F., Garneau, M.-E., Pradalier, C., Posch, T., Pernthaler, J., & Siegwart, R. Y. (2012). Autonomous inland water monitoring: Design and application of a surface vessel. IEEE Robotics and Automation Magazine, 19(1), 62–72.