FloodNet Sensors Provide Real-Time Flood Data in New York City

Researchers have developed FloodNet, a low-cost, accurate flood sensor system, to provide real-time flood information in New York City. Since 2020, 87 sensors have been deployed, recording 360 flood events, and providing data to stakeholders through a public-facing dashboard.

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Nitish Verma
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FloodNet Sensors Provide Real-Time Flood Data in New York City

FloodNet Sensors Provide Real-Time Flood Data in New York City

Researchers have developed a low-cost, accurate, and robust flood sensor system called FloodNet to provide real-time flood information to stakeholders in New York City. As climate change increases the risk of urban flooding, this innovative network aims to enhance flood monitoring and response capabilities across the city's five boroughs.

Urban flooding poses significant challenges for communities worldwide, and New York City is no exception. With its dense population, complex infrastructure, and coastal location, the city is particularly vulnerable to the impacts of rising sea levels and extreme weather events.

Why this matters: Effective flood monitoring and response systems are crucial for mitigating the devastating impacts of urban flooding, which can result in loss of life, property damage, and economic disruption. By developing low-cost, accurate flood sensors, cities can better prepare for and respond to flood events, ultimately enhancing the safety and resilience of their communities.

Since October 2020, the FloodNet project has deployed 87 sensors across New York City, recording an impressive 360 flood events through May 2023. Each sensor, costing around $200, can be easily mounted to street sign poles or walls and measures water depths with better than 25-millimeter accuracy using an ultrasonic range finder. The data is transmitted to a central server every minute via a Long Range Wide Area Network (LoRaWAN) or cellular network.

A key feature of the FloodNet system is its public-facing data dashboard, which allows community members and city agency personnel to visualize the flood data in near real-time and access historical records. This transparency and accessibility empower stakeholders to make informed decisions and take swift action when floods occur. Alerts can also be triggered to warn community members and emergency responders when rising water levels are detected.

The FloodNet project is a collaborative effort among various New York City organizations, combining hardware, open-source software, data visualization, and community engagement tools. Lead researcher Charlie Mydlarz emphasizes the project's goal of releasing meaningful, actionable flood data to stakeholders in real-time. The team continues to fine-tune data analysis tools, adjust flood detection thresholds, and expand the sensor network to enhance its effectiveness.

The FloodNet project represents a significant step forward in addressing these challenges, providing city officials and residents with valuable real-time data to inform decision-making and emergency response efforts. As the network continues to expand and evolve, it holds the potential to transform how New York City prepares for and responds to flood events, ultimately enhancing the safety and resilience of its communities in the face of a changing climate.