The SWSL is a full-featured electronics development laboratory with the equipment and infrastructure required to design, create and test novel circuits and systems.  This includes laboratory space for field preparation and testing of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) and electronics.

Main room

Field Preparation and Fieldwork

Workbenches, battery chargers, computers and power supplies are available to prepare UAVs, drones and circuits for field deployment.  Survey equipment includes a total station theodolite (TST) used to obtain ground truth data.   A permant fixed-position GPS base station in the laboratory (available mid-2019) allows for indoor testing of devices with GPS receivers and also permits for differential GPS corrections.  Facilities are available for year-round testing of electronics.  Fieldwork is conducted at sites operated by Global Institute for Water Security (GIWS) and Global Water Futures (GWF) partner universities.

Servers and Data Processing

Built and designed in-lab, custom computer systems and servers are available for setup, design and testing of experimental networks and wireless sensors.  Office space for students and researchers is also available for data analysis and processing.

Server room

SWSL server

   SWSL student room

Circuit Development and Testing

Oscilloscopes, power supplies, function generators, multimeters, programmers and test equipment are available for prototyping.  A professional reflow oven and stencil printer allows for in-lab production of surface-mount Printed Circuit Boards (PCBs).  An environmental chamber with a temperature and relative humidity controller is used for testing circuits and systems at low to high temperatures.

Oven and chamber

3D Printing and Scanning

A professional 3D printer and two 3D scanners are available for creating enclosure cases and mechanical mounting hardware for sensors.  Materials used for 3D printing are engineering-grade and UV-stabilized for outdoor use.

3D printer 


Virtual Reality (VR)

A small classroom set of Oculus Rift Virtual Reality (VR) devices are available for examination of LIDAR and augmented reality data associated with sensor networks.

VR goggles

Key Areas of Research

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs)

A number of UAVs are available for mapping of landscapes during the snow-covered and snow-free seasons.  The UAVs owned and operated by the SWSL are deployed at field sites in the Prairies and Rocky Mountains.  UAV platforms manufactured and configured by DJI International, Sensefly, and DraganFly are available for use in research projects.  We support local Saskatchewan businesses such as DraganFly.

Drone in the field

Photo Credit: Alistair Wallace / Phil Harder

Sensors and Systems

SWSL designs, develops and tests sensors and systems that measure all components of the hydrological cycle.  The sensors are self-calibrating with onboard signal processing for in-field feedback and rapid data availability.  Sensors are equipped with network interfaces such as WiFi and LoRa.  SWSL research is focussed on the use of active and passive technologies involving acoustics, electromagnetic waves, visible and near-infrared cameras as well as LIDAR and GPS.

Field installation

Photo Credit: Robin Heavens

System Design

Software licenses for professional mechanical and electrical CAD software are available for researchers and students.  In lieu of purchasing commercial off-the-shelf hardware, circuit boards and systems are designed in-lab.

Mechanical cad

Electrical CAD

Ubiquitous Data Processing

Self-calibration of sensors, network connectivity and in-field availability of data are major aspects of our system development philosophy.  This philosophy is supported by embedded operating systems and wireless networks.

Model Inputs and Reproducible Research

SWSL personnel are interested in how novel devices can be used to provide data inputs to mathematical models of climate change, drought, snowmelt, and flooding.  These models can provide predictions and forecasts useful for agriculture, natural resources and ecosystem protection.  To ensure that the research is reproducible for maximum applicability, all source code, data, and ancillary information scientific papers written for the SWSL will be available for download from a github repository.


Core Research Personnel (Saskatoon, Saskatchewan)

Research Associates

Laboratory Management

Graduate Students

Field Support Staff (Canmore, Alberta)

Research Code

Clone github repos @smartwaterlab


Email us at smart.water@usask.ca.

SWSL website, github and illustrations contact: Nicholas J. Kinar

GIWS communcations: Mark Ferguson