On first glance, it would appear that Q has switched government departments and is taking a break from MI6 and supplying James Bond with gadgets to save the world. At any rate, 007’s Quartermaster would certainly approve of the cutting edge technology at the Environment Agency’s disposal as it battles to prevent flooding across the UK.
The Environment Agency are able to call upon a vast array of gadgets, which include lasers, cameras run on solar power, incident command vehicles complete with gadgets and remote controlled boats to monitor and combat the risk of flooding.
‘Mr Nosey’, a remote controlled robot, certainly bears more than a passing resemblance to the surveillance gadget 'Snooper' used by Q to track down Sir Roger Moore in 1985’s A View to a Kill. They also missed a trick not calling it 'Dr Nosey'.
Mr Nosey is used to investigate causes of flooding that would be out of reach for people, such as blocked tunnels and underground culverts. The robot can fit into tight spaces as small as 6 inches in diameter and uses the camera positioned on his nose to check out tunnels more than a mile in length.
The robot weighs in at a hefty 30kg to prevent fast-flowing water from sweeping it away and can send real-time images to the surface, allowing its operators to assess the damage or blockages underground.
John Curtin, the Environment Agency’s Executive Director of Flood Risk Management, said: “Almost five million people in England live in areas at risk of flooding and innovations ranging from little gadgets like Mr Nosey to our new state of the art incident vehicles are hugely important.
“They are the little brothers to our larger scale flood defences, such as the iconic Thames Barrier, but all of them help us to reduce that risk. As winter approaches, we also encourage people to prepare for potential flooding by checking the flood risk in their area and signing up to free flood warnings.”
Incident Command Vehicles
Back at MI6, Bond can rely on M, Q, Miss Moneypenny, and Tanner to dipatch him to the crisis area. The Environment Agency’s Incident Room responds when the threat of flooding is imminent and emergency response teams are dispatched. First on the scene are Incident Command Vehicles and use satellite communications to send live footage back to the Incident Room.
As Q might say, the vehicles come with a few optional extras that enable the first response team to be kept constantly updated and the on-board generator means that even the most remote locations do not present a problem.
Amphibious Weed Cutting Boat
Whether it was Pierce Brosnan tearing down the Thames in his speedboat in The World is not Enough or Sir Roger Moore coasting through the canals of Venice in Moonraker, James Bond is no stranger to using the latest technology as he travels across water. This latest bit of kit from the Environment Agency, however, is probably more likely to be one of the vehicles pursuing 007. The The Amphibious Weed Cutting Boat is equipped with a giant chainsaw and tank tracks to move through shallow water, it is used to clear overgrown weeds to keep the rivers flowing and eliminate any blockages that could potentially cause flooding. The boat is assisted on land by the Robomower, which is a remote controlled grass cutter that can be used on steep grass flood banks.
ARC (Acoustic Remote Controlled) boat
While 007 might have been able to drive a car by remote control, he has not yet had the chance to do so with a boat. The ARC (Acoustic Remote Controlled) boat, with a range of 200m, measures just under 2 m in length but can be reduced to 1.2 m by detaching the bow from the hull. It is used to collect data on the volume of water flowing in rivers using ultrasound pulses – similar to the technology used in pregnancy scans. This information can then be used to keep tabs on river levels and predict when flooding may happen.
The boats are used in water where it would be too dangerous to send a person, such as under bridges or in fast flowing currents.
Nick Everard, Technical Advisor for the Environment Agency commented: “It’s extremely easy to set up and operate, so we can now survey more sites in less time. Before the ARC-Boat was available, it would take four or five people a full day to survey just one site. Now it’s possible for two people to survey up to six sites in a day.”
Solar powered cameras and laser scanning
Spies rely on credible intelligence and their information is only as good as their surveillance equipment. The Environment Agency has installed solar powered cameras at strategic locations across the country to monitor water levels. The cameras are linked to Twitter and can send alerts and photos to residents who have signed up for the service.
Laser scanning is also used by the Environment Agency to aerially scan and map the landscape. The information captured can used to monitor changing coastal habits.
LIDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) data is captured by aerial survey during the winter (day or night) to make sure the view is less likely to be obscured by leaves, allowing the height data to be as accurate as possible.
Bond villains must likely to take on the Environment Agency:
Karl Stromberg – The Spy who Loved Me. Shipping magnate Stromberg, operating from his underwater Atlantis lair, wanted to eradicate life on land and begin a new civilisation underwater.
Max Zorin – A View to Kill. Former KGB agent turned global industrialist, Zorin loved a good flood. He flooded his mine in an effort to drown James Bond and his estranged henchwoman May Day. His grand scheme was to flood Silicon Valley to corner the world’s market on computer microchips.
Dominic Greene – A Quantum of Solace. Supposed environmentalist Greene wanted to control Bolivia’s water supply in a bid to extort money.