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Instrument and Equipment Development and Modifications

The HIF develops new or modifies existing hydrologic instruments and equipment to maximize accuracy, performance, efficiency, and cost-effectiveness. The HIF also designs and configures custom systems from existing equipment and instruments. Examples of these activities are below.

USGS electronic technician threads a wire into a rapid deployment gage assembly.
HIF electronic technician assembles one of three Rapid Deployment Gage (RDG) mounts. RDGs are fully-functional streamgages designed to be deployed quickly and temporarily to measure and transmit stream stage data in emergency situations. Their mounts attach to bridges or other structures to support the RDG and its accompanying instruments. This item was designed at the HIF, and they are assembled and checked for quality assurance before being released to the HIF warehouse for sale or rental. (Credit: Joanne Jones, USGS)

Rapid Deployment Gages (RDG)

Rapid Deployment Gages are quick to install, temporary, self-contained streamgages.

  • The Rapid Deployment Gage – Version 3 (RDG-3), is a complete, self-contained streamgage that is designed for deployment on bridges and other structures that are directly over the water surface of the stream. It employs a radar stage sensor and uses a GOES radio to provide realtime streamflow information. The RDG-3 is relatively lightweight and can usually be installed by a two-person crew in less than two hours. The system is powered by a solar panel and 12-volt battery, is pre-wired to facilitate set-up in the field and has several security features to discourage vandalism.
  • The Rapid Deployment Gage – Version 4 (RDG-4), is a self-contained, lightweight system designed to install very quickly and easily in advance of a flood or other emergency condition. These units can also serve as quick temporary replacements for gages lost or damaged during such events. The design allows one person the ability to deploy the unit in approximately 30 minutes or less. The system consists of a GOES transmitter, data logger, satellite antenna, battery pack and GPS receiver/antenna contained within a single enclosure. The only external devices in the system are the pressure transducer, interface box, a solar panel and inter-connecting cables for those devices. The entire package weighs less than 25 pounds. The small physical footprint of the system allows for minimal visual impact on the environment.

A-Pack Reel Kit Update

The project goal is to devise a new cable for the A-Pack reel to replace the no-longer-available .084-diameter cable. Since it was designed in 1957, the A-Pack sounding reel has used .084 diameter sounding cable. Some years ago, the manufacturer stopped making this cable. The USGS bought a large spool of the cable, and it was a slow-selling item, so the day we ran out was postponed for a number of years. However, that day finally arrived. There is no more .084 diameter cable, and no more to be obtained. The obvious thing to do is to replace the .084 cable with the .101 diameter cable used on the A-55 and B-56 reels. This first requires machining the drum of the A-pack reel to make it slightly smaller, so that when the thicker cable is installed, it will still pay out 1 foot of cable for each turn of the drum. Also, the levelwinding sheave has to be reworked to guide the thicker cable. Next, an update to the cable assembly is in order, removing the old specially-made stainless steel sleeves that capture the ends of the armored cable, and making a new design that uses adhesive-lined heat-shrink tube. The updated cable also features a more secure attachment for the electrical terminals at each end of the cable. Add to this the need to incorporate a breakaway system into the updated design.

12-volt Power Connector Replacement

The orange and red power connectors for 12-volt systems that have been stocked in the HIF warehouse are no longer available from the manufacturer. The manufacturer's mold is broken and they have informed HIF that they do not plan to make these connectors in the future. These connectors have been supplied by HIF and used on 12-volt power systems since the early 1980's. There are literally several hundred thousand of these in use at USGS hydrologic monitoring stations across the U.S.

A market search will continue until Dec. 31, 2008 for additional sources of supply for the 18 AWG (orange) connectors. If none are found, a search for a suitable replacement connector will be conducted.

HIF presently has a 2-1/2 yr. supply of 18 AWG (orange) connectors and a 10 year supply of 22 AWG (red) connectors. As of late March, 2010 a replacement has been designed and a procurement action to manufacture the replacement is in process.

Plastic AA Bucket Wheels

The plastic bucket wheel is designed to be a direct replacement for the chrome plated metal wheels currently in use on the Type AA USGS velocity meter. The goals for the plastic bucket wheel are to reduce costs and to produce a more uniform bucket wheel than is currently possible with the metal version. The current design employs a plastic frame and individual cups that are made from the same mold cavity. Six cups are fixed to the frame to produce a complete bucketwheel. Being made of plastic, the bucket wheel is lighter taking less torque to begin rotation. When used with a magnetic switch head assembly, the plastic bucket wheel can very accurately measure slow velocities.

Electric Reel Drive

The Electric Reel Drive was designed to replace and improve on the standard USGS ‘Jack & Heintz’ electric reel drive. The new drive allows the user to set a vertical transit speed, and the drive will then regulate itself to run at the selected speed in both the up and down directions. This is intended to meet the needs of USGS personnel using depth-integrating samplers to gather sediment or water-quality samples.

  • The drive is designed to attach to the USGS type E crane, and to drive the USGS type B-56 and E-53 sounding reels.
  • Maximum speed in the normal configuration is about 3-1/2 ft/sec driving a B reel, and about 1-1/2 ft/sec driving an E reel.
  • The drive will operate with sounding weights and samplers weighing up to about 300 lbs.
  • The drive is powered by either 12 or 24-volts DC (VDC) supplied by one or two 12-V batteries.
  • The user controls the drive via a cord-attached handheld control unit.
  • HIF Engineers verifying transit rates on an electric reel drive.

The initial production run of approximately 45 units was very well received. Unfortunately, some of the electronic parts used in the design are no longer available, and a considerable amount of redesign was needed to update the design so that we could build more units. As of late March 2010, this work is nearing completion.

Six inch modified Parshall Flume (Portable)

Image: Modified Parshall Flume
Modified Parshall Flume on Heart River near South Heart, North Dakota. (Credit: Jarvis Kaderlik, USGS)

The HIF has supplied a three-inch portable Parshall flume for many years. The three inch flume is an important hydrographer's tool to measure discharge in channels that are not suitable for measurement with mechanical or acoustic velocity meters. Periodically we receive requests for a six inch version of the portable Parshall flume for those situations when the capacity of the three inch flume is not enough. The dimensions of the three inch portable Parshall flume and the dimensions for the six inch flume listed in the USGS Techniques of Water-Resources Investigations (TWRI) Book 3 Chapter A14 have been combined together to produce drawings for an all new six-inch portable Parshall flume that can be used to make discharge measurements.