Tallinn University of Technology

Flow Sensing

Centre for Biorobotics specializes in developing sensors inspired by fish lateral line sensing, which detect flow and small fluctuations in water. We utilize these sensors for measuring, characterizing, and classifying underwater environments, offering insights not achievable through traditional sensing methods like vision or sound. By mimicking the distributed and redundant nature of natural lateral lines, we process information to perceive and interpret complex natural flows. Through our research, we aim to classify natural flows and understand them from the perspective of fish, aiding in the design of structures to assist fish migration and classify habitats and river morphology.  

Large scale distributed flow sensing

Monitoring and assessment of coastal and river velocities plays a key role in both scientific and industry applications. Centre for Biorobotics has been developing a bioinspired flow measurement device called the Hydromast to make accurate flow velocity and direction estimates in harsh environments in a cost-effective manner. Find more about the device here (link to Hydromast application page).

The technolgy has been applied in various applications, ranging from current estimation for safety purposes in ports (Sillamäe, Virtsu and Rohuküla ports in Baltic Sea,  Heraklion port in Mediterranean), coastline sediment studies (coastal large-scale measurements in bay of Tallinn and Riga, Baltic Sea), flow estimation in fish farms (Froya, Norway) to long-term (up to 1 year) data collection campaigns in the arctics (Isfjorden, Svalbard).

Related projects:




Hydromast installation in Riga Bay

Hydromast installation in Tallinn Bay


DPSS (Differential Pressure Sensor Speedometer) is a novel device and method for measuring the flow speed with respect to an underwater vehicle. It can be used also on small and low-cost vehicles since it does not take much space and energy and does not cost much. Knowing your own speed is important for underwater robots because it helps them to estimate where they are, plan their path and not get lost. GPS does not work underwater and the only way of knowing your position is by guessing using onboard sensors.


ICRA 2020 presentation DPSS

2D Velocimetry Based on Differential Pressure for Autonomous Underwater Vehicles Animation

Extreme sensing

We are building sensors that bring information back from difficult places under extreme conditions. We design sensors to be fault-tolerant and resilient, to be exploited in harsh environments repeatedly or for long periods of time. The data is analysed using methods of multi-parameter statistical modelling and machine learning.

Measuring sub-glacial flows.  

Water flowing in channels on the surface and inside a glacier changes how the glacier is moving but so far it has not been possible to measure. We send sensors into subglacial channels and measure acceleration, pressure and its rotation in magnetic field. After retrieval we analyse the data to extract information about the properties of subglacial channels.

Tactile sensing

Based on whiskers found on seals and other mammals, we have been investigating tactile sensing for robotics. Our aim is to study the perception in in visually impaired conditions (e.g. mining environment) where conventional sensors like cameras, LiDAR are underperforming and to develop ways to fill in knowledge gaps for mapping and localization to allow robot navigation. Currently, we have applied and tested the tactile sensors in terrestrial applications on a small-scale test platform in ROBOMINERS project.

Related projects