January 18, 2017
Journal Article

Sensor Fish: an autonomous sensor package for characterizing complex flow fields and fish passage

Zhiqun Deng
Jayson Martinez
Jun Lu


Fish passing through dams or other hydraulic structures may be injured or killed despite advances in turbine design, project operations, and other fish bypass systems. The Sensor Fish (SF) device is an autonomous sensor package that characterizes the physical conditions and stressors to which fish are exposed during passage through hydro facilities. It was designed to move passively as a neutrally buoyant object through severe hydraulic environments, while collecting high-resolution sensor data. Since its first generation1, the SF device has been successfully deployed in many fish passage studies and has evolved to be a major tool for characterizing fish passage conditions during fish passage in the Columbia River Basin. To better accelerate hydropower development, the U.S. Department of Energy Water Power Program provided funding to develop a new generation (Gen 2 SF) to incorporate more capabilities and accommodate a wider range of users over a broader range of turbine designs and operating environments. The Gen 2 SF (Figure 1) is approximately the size and density of a yearling salmon smolt and is nearly neutrally buoyant. It contains three-dimensional (3D) rotation sensors, 3D linear acceleration sensors, a pressure sensor, a temperature sensor, a 3D orientation sensor, a radiofrequency (RF) transmitter, and a recovery module2. A low-power microcontroller collects data from the sensors and stores up to 5 min of data on internal flash memory at a sampling frequency of 2048 Hz. The recovery module makes the SF positively buoyant after a pre-programmed period of time, causing it to float to the surface for recovery.

Revised: January 18, 2017 | Published: October 4, 2016


Deng Z., J.J. Martinez, and J. Lu. 2016. "Sensor Fish: an autonomous sensor package for characterizing complex flow fields and fish passage." EWRI Currents 18, no. 3:11. PNNL-SA-117426.

Research topics