Mapping the Oceans Using ASVs

Friday April 6th, 2018 TAGS: ,

In June 2016, Yohei Sasakawa, Chairman of The Nippon Foundation, set out the initiative to partner with GEBCO to cooperatively work towards mapping 100% of the topography of the World Ocean floor by 2030.This initiative led to the formulation of Seabed 2030, a global project with the focused goal of producing the definitive, high-resolution bathymetric map of the entire World Ocean.

This ambitious initiative is driven by a strong motivation to empower the world to use the ocean sustainably. This will also enable scientific research to be undertaken based on detailed bathymetric information of the Earth’s seabed rather than the current estimated 5% of the mapped World Ocean. It is suggested, that a way to achieve this goal is the utilisation of innovative unmanned technology such as Autonomous Surface Vehicles (ASVs).

On 25th and 26th October 2017, members of the Seabed 2030 Project Team and invited experts met at the UK National Oceanography Centre, Southampton – to plan the first stages of this ambitious project. The National Oceanography Centre has a dedicated Marine Autonomous and Robotics Systems (MARS) hub that has been used for similar missions through their Marine Autonomous Systems in Support of Marine Observations (MASSMO) missions. Marine Autonomous Systems (MAS) and in particular, ASVs, are the natural progression for today’s marine industry, including the surveying community.

Commercial work-class ASVs such as the ASV Global C-Worker range including the C-Worker 5 and C-Worker 6 provide a reliable platform that can operate in harsh environments for longer operational hours than traditional manned platforms whilst collecting bathymetric data. Annual hydrographic surveys with TerraSond off the coast of Alaska have proven the C-Worker 5 in particular to be a cost-effective and reliable force multiplier, improving production of high quality seabed maps with previous timesaving up to 25 days.

One of the biggest obstacles to collecting ocean floor topography data are areas that are difficult to access such as inshore spaces like caves, rivers and coastal areas. Smaller vessels such as the C-Cat 3 and C-Worker 4 have been specifically designed to maximise efficiencies in these areas and have been utilised in areas such as the River Thames and around the Californian Channel Islands.

Whether surveying close to structures, in shallow water, or even taking on mammoth strips of the World Ocean, ASVs provide a perfect solution. They allow maximisation of operational hours, cutting out the inefficiencies of traditional manned survey platforms but can also work in conjunction with these vessels in order to collect data quicker. It seems only logical, that a machine which does not need sleep or sustenance should be the next step in geophysical survey and the route to successfully aiding the mapping of the World Ocean by 2030.

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