The acoustic velocity meter (AVM), also referred to as an ultrasonic flowmeter, has been an operational tool for the measurement of streamflow since 1965. Very little information is available concerning AVM operation, performance, and limitations. The purpose of this report is to consolidate information in such a manner as to provide a better understanding about the application of this instrumentation to streamflow measurement.
AVM instrumentation is highly accurate and nonmechanical. Most commercial AVM systems that measure streamflow use the time-of-travel method to determine a velocity between two points. The systems operate on the principle that point-to-point upstream travel-time of sound is longer than the downstream travel-time, and this difference can be monitored and measured accurately by electronics.
AVM equipment has no practical upper limit of measurable velocity if sonic transducers are securely placed and adequately protected. AVM systems used in streamflow measurement generally operate with a resolution of ?0.01 meter per second but this is dependent on system frequency, path length, and signal attenuation. In some applications the performance of AVM equipment may be degraded by multipath interference, signal bending, signal attenuation, and variable streamline orientation.
Presently used minicomputer systems, although expensive to purchase and maintain, perform well. Increased use of AVM systems probably will be realized as smaller, less expensive, and more conveniently operable microprocessor-based systems become readily available.
Available AVM equipment should be capable of flow measurement in a wide variety of situations heretofore untried. New signal-detection techniques and communication linkages can provide additional flexibility to the systems so that operation is possible in more river and estuary situations.
Additional publication details
USGS Numbered Series
Acoustic systems for the measurement of streamflow