Wednesday, January 16, 2019

AI is about to take the ship's helm away from humans

Paval Botica, chief officer on CMA CGM's Benjamin Franklin container ship, checks a monitor off Guangzhou, China, in 2016.
The startup Shone is outfitting CMA CGM ships with situational awareness systems,

a first step toward autonomous operation.
© 2016 Bloomberg Finance LP

 From Forbes by Jeremy Bogaisky

The next time you hop on a ferry, take a look at the captain’s bridge.
There may not be a human at the helm much longer.
Ships around the world are beginning a transformation into autonomous machines, leveraging the same advances in artificial intelligence that are shaking up the automotive world.

In 2017, Ugo Vollmer and his friend Clement Renault were working on self-driving cars in Silicon Valley when an article on autonomous shipping caused them to make a sudden change in direction.
Reading that more than 80% of goods are transported by sea, a light bulb went off, says Vollmer.
“We can have a very huge impact,” he remembers thinking.
The French engineers started tinkering with robotizing a small boat along with another friend friend, Antoine de Maleprade.
Within three months of joining the incubator Y Combinator in January 2018, their startup Shone struck a deal with the big French shipping line CMA CGM to install a system on cargo ships plying trans-Pacific routes that detects surrounding ships and obstacles.

CMA CGM collaborates with a startup, Shone, to embed artificial intelligence on board ships
Shone fuses data from multiple sensors (radar, camera, AIS, etc.) in order to increase detection accuracy, thus preventing potential collisions, taking into account COLREGs. 

Shone is one of a wave of companies that are seeking to robotize ships using artificial intelligence to fuse data from shipboard sensors like radar and cameras to create a picture of the hazards around a ship and to navigate among them.
Autonomous and remote-controlled shipping promises to reduce the costs of consumer goods and improve safety for passenger ferries and cruise liners.
The first commercial vessels likely to operate autonomously at least part of the time are expected to be tugboats and small ferries traveling short routes—the technology could enable an expansion of passenger service into thinly traveled early morning hours and in rural locations.

In 2017, Rolls-Royce signed a deal with Google to develop intelligent awareness systems for future autonomous ships.
The autonomous ships market size is expected to grow from USD 6.1 billion in 2018 to USD 13.8 billion by 2030, at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 7.00% during the forecast period.  

However, autonomy will play out very differently on the water than on land, and in many cases it won’t take humans off the ship—or entirely away from the controls.
Rather than just replacing one driver of a car or truck, oceangoing ships can have 20 or more crew members onboard, some of whom tend to a range of mechanical systems en route.

“Diesel engines require replacement of filters in oil systems—the fuel system has a separator than can get clogged,” says Oskar Levander, who heads Roll-Royce’s autonomous systems efforts.
“There are a lot of these things the crew is doing all the time.”

In the near term, it’s more likely that the helm will be controlled by an autonomous system or a remote human operator while a smaller crew takes care of the vessel.
Transoceanic autonomous journeys will require rule-making by the International Maritime Organization, a process that could take through the middle of the next decade.

The first commercial applications of autonomous systems are likely to be on small vessels in coastal waters in Scandinavia, where Finland and Norway have staked out testing areas.
In December in Finland, Rolls-Royce pulled off the first public demonstration of an autonomous voyage by a passenger vessel, a state-run car ferry that avoided obstacles on a 1-mile route and docked automatically.
On that day and in previous trials, Rolls-Royce says the system performed ably in rough winter weather, handling snow and strong winds.

Small ferries are a key part of the transportation network in Scandinavia, carrying cars across fjords and connecting to islands.
Autonomous and remote control systems could allow for an expansion of service on short routes into nighttime hours, and reduce staffing on less popular ones, with boats potentially piloted from onshore centers where one captain could supervise many, says Levander.

The tugboat market also has a good near-term business case for autonomy and remote control, says Levander.
“There’s a very attractive payback time, crew costs are high,” he says.
Rolls-Royce demonstrated remote control of a tugboat in Copenhagen in 2017 working with Svister, a tug operator owned by Maersk.
A Boston-based startup called Sea Machines is also developing autonomous and remote-control systems for tugs, ferries and other workboats.

The ferries between Horten and Moss in Norway will now go alongside automatically.
Kongsberg Maritime is installing technology onboard to increase safety, improve passenger experience and reduce fuel consumption.

In 2020, the Norse conglomerate Kongsberg, which is acquiring Rolls-Royce's marine unit, will launch the world’s first electric containership designed to be autonomous, the YARA Birkehead.
The vessel, which is on the smaller side with capacity for 120 shipping containers, will carry fertilizer in Norwegian waters from a YARA plant to nearby ports to be transferred to larger vessels for export.

Rolls-Royce’s Levander and many in the industry believe new-build electric vessels will be the ideal platform to robotize cargo shipping—electric propulsion systems will have fewer moving parts and require less maintenance.
But it will take decades for cargo fleets to turn over—vessels typically stay in service for about 20 years—and batteries don’t have enough energy density yet to power ships for cross-ocean voyages.

Shone is staking its business on retrofitting existing cargo ships.
In certain ways it’s easier to make ships autonomous than automobiles.
Large ships already have marine-tested sensor systems that can be plugged into: radar, GPS and a transponder-based automatic identification system.
Shone adds 360-degree cameras and microphones and uses artificial intelligence to fuse the sensor data into an object detection system that displays an integrated picture of a ship’s surroundings for the crew on an iPad.
Microphones can pick up a ship’s horn and by algorithm the system can pinpoint its location.
The system also add layers of intelligence, says Vollmer.
“It can flag you should pay attention to this one ship because it has erratic behavior.”

At this point that’s the extent of what the system does.
In the spring Vollmer says it will begin recommending courses of action for the ship’s helm to take, from obstacle avoidance to optimizing routes, building trust for the final step, when it’s permissible: taking automatic action.
Shone is installing its system for a price “in the hundreds of thousands,” says Vollmer, and a recurring fee for service.
It’s a small amount, he says, compared to the $200 million price for a cargo vessel, and contrasts to the cost issues that autonomous sensor suites raise for cars.

In the near future cargo ships are only likely to operate autonomously on the open ocean, says Levander, because of the difficulty and expense of creating a system capable of handling the most complex situations that ships encounter.
Going in and out of port the ship would be controlled remotely by a captain in a center onshore, with video and other data streaming over land-based 4G and 5G networks.
Out on open water, the ship would switch to autonomous mode, which wouldn’t require as much data transmittal, with captains ashore standing by to take over as needed, aided by satellite communications.

With more jobs on shore, Levander says it will provide a better, safer life for some seafarers.
“The captain doesn’t have to be away for six months at a time and can have a family life.”

The enhanced situational awareness systems are expected to reduce accidents—from 2011 through 2016, 75% of incidents at sea that resulted in liability insurance claims were due to human error, according to the German insurer Allianz.

And that means taking sailors out of harm’s way.
“We can provide a better life for the seafarer,” says Levander.

Links :

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

New Zealand (Linz) layer update in the GeoGarage platform

5 nautical raster charts updated

Ocean warming is accelerating faster than thought, new research finds

A meltwater canyon on the Greenland ice sheet.
Photograph: Sarah Das/Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution/PA

From NYTimes by Kendra Pierre-Louis 

Scientists say the world’s oceans are warming far more quickly than previously thought, a finding with dire implications for climate change because almost all the excess heat absorbed by the planet ends up stored in their waters.

A new analysis, published Thursday in the journal Science, found that the oceans are heating up 40 percent faster on average than a United Nations panel estimated five years ago.
The researchers also concluded that ocean temperatures have broken records for several straight years.
“2018 is going to be the warmest year on record for the Earth’s oceans,” said Zeke Hausfather, an energy systems analyst at the independent climate research group Berkeley Earth and an author of the study.
“As 2017 was the warmest year, and 2016 was the warmest year.”

Past and future ocean heat content changes
Annual observational OHC changes are consistent with each other and consistent with the ensemble means of the CMIP5 models for historical simulations pre-2005 and projections from 2005–2017, giving confidence in future projections to 2100 (RCP2.6 and RCP8.5) (see the supplementary materials).

The mean projected OHC changes and their 90% confidence intervals between 2081 and 2100 are shown in bars at the right.
The inset depicts the detailed OHC changes after January 1990, using the monthly OHC changes updated to September 2018, along with the other annual observed values superposed. 
graphic: N. Cary/ScienceMag

As the planet has warmed, the oceans have provided a critical buffer.
They have slowed the effects of climate change by absorbing 93 percent of the heat trapped by the greenhouse gases humans pump into the atmosphere.

“If the ocean wasn’t absorbing as much heat, the surface of the land would heat up much faster than it is right now,” said Malin L. Pinsky, an associate professor in the department of ecology, evolution and natural resources at Rutgers University.
“In fact, the ocean is saving us from massive warming right now.”

But the surging water temperatures are already killing off marine ecosystems, raising sea levels and making hurricanes more destructive.

As the oceans continue to heat up, those effects will become more catastrophic, scientists say.
Rainier, more powerful storms like Hurricane Harvey in 2017 and Hurricane Florence in 2018 will become more common, and coastlines around the world will flood more frequently.
Coral reefs, whose fish populations are sources of food for hundreds of millions of people, will come under increasing stress; a fifth of all corals have already died in the past three years.

People in the tropics, who rely heavily on fish for protein, could be hard hit, said Kathryn Matthews, deputy chief scientist for the conservation group Oceana.
“The actual ability of the warm oceans to produce food is much lower, so that means they’re going to be more quickly approaching food insecurity,” she said.

Because they play such a critical role in global warming, oceans are one of the most important areas of research for climate scientists.
Average ocean temperatures are also a consistent way to track the effects of greenhouse gas emissions because they are not influenced much by short-term weather patterns, Mr. Hausfather said.
“Oceans are really the best thermometer we have for changes in the Earth,” he said.

But, historically, understanding ocean temperatures has been difficult.
An authoritative United Nations report, issued in 2014 by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, presented five different estimates of ocean heat, but they all showed less warming than the levels projected by computer climate models — suggesting that either the ocean heat measurements or the climate models were inaccurate.

[The I.P.C.C.also issued a report last year that described a climate crisis as soon as 2040.]

Since the early 2000s, scientists have measured ocean heat using a network of drifting floats called Argo, named after Jason’s ship in Greek mythology.
The floats measure the temperature and saltiness of the upper 6,500 feet of the ocean and upload the data via satellites.

An ocean sensor deployed by the French research ship Pourquoi Pas? as part of the Argo project.
Since the mid-2000s, a fleet of nearly 4,000 floating robots have been drifting throughout Earth’s oceans, every few days diving to a depth of about 1.25 miles (2,000 meters) and measuring the ocean’s temperature, pH, salinity and other bits of information as they rise back up.
This ocean-monitoring battalion is called Argo.
Credit : Olivier Dugornay/Ifremer/Argo Program

But before Argo, researchers relied on temperature sensors that ships lowered into the ocean with copper wire.
The wire transferred data from the sensor to the ship for recording until the wire broke and the sensor drifted away.

That method was subject to uncertainties, particularly around the accuracy of the depth at which the measurement was taken.
Those uncertainties hamper today’s scientists as they stitch together 20th-century temperature data into a global historical record.

In the new analysis, Mr. Hausfather and his colleagues assessed three recent studies that better accounted for the older instrument biases.
The results converged at an estimate of ocean warming that was higher than that of the 2014 United Nations report and more in line with the climate models.

The waters closest to the surface have heated up the most, and that warming has accelerated over the past two decades, according to data from the lead author of the new study, Lijing Cheng of the Institute of Atmospheric Physics in Beijing.

 The oceans are heating up

As the oceans heat up, sea levels rise because warmer water takes up more space than colder water.
In fact, most of the sea level rise observed to date is because of this warming effect, not melting ice caps.

Absent global action to reduce carbon emissions, the authors said, the warming alone would cause sea levels to rise by about a foot by 2100, and the ice caps would contribute more.
That could exacerbate damages from severe coastal flooding and storm surge.

The effects of the warming on marine life could also have broad repercussions, Dr. Pinsky said.
“As the ocean heats up, it’s driving fish into new places, and we’re already seeing that that’s driving conflict between countries,” he said.
“It’s spilling over far beyond just fish, it’s turned into trade wars. It’s turned into diplomatic disputes.
It’s led to a breakdown in international relations in some cases.”

A fourth study reviewed by the researchers strengthened their conclusions.
That study used a novel method to estimate ocean temperatures indirectly, and it also found that the world’s oceans were heating faster than the authors of the 2014 study did.

The study initially contained an error that caused its authors to revise their estimates downward.
But as it turned out, the downward revision brought the study’s estimates much closer to the new consensus.

“The correction made it agree a lot better with the other new observational records,” Mr. Hausfather said.
“Previously it showed significantly more warming than anyone, and that was potentially worrisome because it meant our observational estimates might be problematic.
Now their best estimate is pretty much dead-on with the other three recent studies.”

The scientists who published the four studies were not trying to make their results align, Mr.
Hausfather said.
“The groups who were working on ocean heat observations, they’re not climate modelers,” he said.
“They’re not particularly concerned with whether or not their observations agree or disagree with climate models.”

Laure Zanna, an associate professor of climate physics at the University of Oxford who was not involved in the study, said the new research was “a very nice summary of what we know of the ocean and how far the new estimates have come together.”

 Rising ocean temperatures can bleach corals, like these off of Papua New Guinea.
Credit : Jurgen Freund/NPL/Minden Pictures

Dr. Zanna published a study this week that used existing data to estimate ocean temperatures dating back to 1871.
The goal was to figure out places where sea level rise might happen even faster than expected because of the way ocean currents redistribute heat, allowing regions that are especially at risk to better plan for those changes.

[Here’s more on how the oceans are absorbing most of the planet’s excess heat.]

“We are warming the planet but the ocean is not warming evenly, so different places warm more than others,” Dr.
Zanna said.
“And so the first consequence will be that sea level will be different in different places depending on the warming.”

Though the new findings provide a grim forecast for the future of the oceans, Mr.
Hausfather said that efforts to mitigate global warming, including the 2015 Paris climate agreement, would help.
“I think there’s some reason for confidence that we’ll avoid the worst-case outcomes,” he said, “even if we’re not on track for the outcomes we want.”

Links :

Monday, January 14, 2019

Canada (CHS) layer update in the GeoGarage platform

75 nautical charts have been updated & 2 new charts added
see GeoGarage news

Earth’s magnetic field is acting up and geologists don’t know why

Source: World Data Center for Geomagnetism/Kyoto Univ.

From Nature by Alexandra Witze

Erratic motion of north magnetic pole forces experts to update model that aids global navigation.

Something strange is going on at the top of the world.
Earth’s north magnetic pole has been skittering away from Canada and towards Siberia, driven by liquid iron sloshing within the planet’s core.
The magnetic pole is moving so quickly that it has forced the world’s geomagnetism experts into a rare move.

The movement of the Earth's magnetic poles are shown in this animation at 10-year intervals from 1970 to 2020.
The red and blue lines show the difference between magnetic north and true north depending on where you are standing. On the green line, a compass would point to true north.
credit : NOAA National Centres for Environmental Information.

On 15 January, they are set to update the World Magnetic Model, which describes the planet’s magnetic field and underlies all modern navigation, from the systems that steer ships at sea to Google Maps on smartphones.
Note : Actually, the release of the World Magnetic Model has been postponed to 30 January due to the ongoing US government shutdown.

Declination (magnetic variation) in region of north pole at 2015.0 from the World Magnetic Model .
Red - positive (east), blue - negative (west), black - zero. Contour interval is 5°.

The most recent version of the model came out in 2015 and was supposed to last until 2020 — but the magnetic field is changing so rapidly that researchers have to fix the model now.
“The error is increasing all the time,” says Arnaud Chulliat, a geomagnetist at the University of Colorado Boulder and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA’s) National Centers for Environmental Information.

The problem lies partly with the moving pole and partly with other shifts deep within the planet.
Liquid churning in Earth’s core generates most of the magnetic field, which varies over time as the deep flows change.
In 2016, for instance, part of the magnetic field temporarily accelerated deep under northern South America and the eastern Pacific Ocean.
Satellites such as the European Space Agency’s Swarm mission tracked the shift.

By early 2018, the World Magnetic Model was in trouble.
Researchers from NOAA and the British Geological Survey in Edinburgh had been doing their annual check of how well the model was capturing all the variations in Earth’s magnetic field.
They realized that it was so inaccurate that it was about to exceed the acceptable limit for navigational errors.

Mag.num - Model of the geomagnetic core field, based on Swarm satellite and observatory data Vertical component of the Earth's Magnetic Field at CMB.
(GFZ Potsdam)

Wandering pole

“That was an interesting situation we found ourselves in,” says Chulliat.
“What’s happening?”
The answer is twofold, he reported last month at a meeting of the American Geophysical Union in Washington DC.

First, that 2016 geomagnetic pulse beneath South America came at the worst possible time, just after the 2015 update to the World Magnetic Model.
This meant that the magnetic field had lurched just after the latest update, in ways that planners had not anticipated.

Second, the motion of the north magnetic pole made the problem worse.
The pole wanders in unpredictable ways that have fascinated explorers and scientists since James Clark Ross first measured it in 1831 in the Canadian Arctic.
In the mid-1990s it picked up speed, from around 15 kilometres per year to around 55 kilometres per year.
By 2001, it had entered the Arctic Ocean — where, in 2007, a team including Chulliat landed an aeroplane on the sea ice in an attempt to locate the pole.

This animation shows changes in Earth's magnetic field from January to June 2014 as measured by ESA's Swarm trio of satellites.
The magnetic field protects us from cosmic radiation and charged particles that bombard Earth, but it is in a permanent state of flux.
Magnetic north wanders, and every few hundred thousand years the polarity flips so that a compass would point south instead of north.
Moreover, the strength of the magnetic field constantly changes -- and it is currently showing signs of significant weakening.
The field is particularly weak over the South Atlantic Ocean -- known as the South Atlantic Anomaly.
This weak field has indirectly caused many temporary satellite 'hiccups' (called Single Event Upsets) as the satellites are exposed to strong radiation over this area.

In 2018, the pole crossed the International Date Line into the Eastern Hemisphere.
It is currently making a beeline for Siberia.

The geometry of Earth’s magnetic field magnifies the model’s errors in places where the field is changing quickly, such as the North Pole.
“The fact that the pole is going fast makes this region more prone to large errors,” says Chulliat.

To fix the World Magnetic Model, he and his colleagues fed it three years of recent data, which included the 2016 geomagnetic pulse.
The new version should remain accurate, he says, until the next regularly scheduled update in 2020.

 Annual rate of change of declination for 2015.0 to 2020.0 from the World Magnetic Model (WMM2015).
Red –easterly change, blue – westerly change, green – zero change. Contour interval is 2’/year (1/30th of a degree), white star is location of a magnetic pole and projection is Mercator
source : BGS

Core questions

In the meantime, scientists are working to understand why the magnetic field is changing so dramatically.
Geomagnetic pulses, like the one that happened in 2016, might be traced back to ‘hydromagnetic’ waves arising from deep in the core.
And the fast motion of the north magnetic pole could be linked to a high-speed jet of liquid iron beneath Canada.

The jet seems to be smearing out and weakening the magnetic field beneath Canada, Phil Livermore, a geomagnetist at the University of Leeds, UK, said at the American Geophysical Union meeting.
And that means that Canada is essentially losing a magnetic tug-of-war with Siberia.
“The location of the north magnetic pole appears to be governed by two large-scale patches of magnetic field, one beneath Canada and one beneath Siberia,” Livermore says.
“The Siberian patch is winning the competition.”
Which means that the world’s geomagnetists will have a lot to keep them busy for the foreseeable future.

Links :

Sunday, January 13, 2019

All aboard the Flat Earth cruise – just don’t tell them about nautical navigation

“Though there are varying models within the flat earth community, the most commonly depicted model of our earth is that of a circular disk with Antarctica serving as an ice wall barrier,” the organization writes in its FAQ section.

From The Guardian by Adam Gabbatt

Flat earthers, who believe the Earth is a large disk, may be shocked to find the ship’s navigation is based on a spherical planet

A group of people who believe the Earth is flat have announced their “biggest, boldest, best adventure yet”: a Flat Earth cruise scheduled for 2020.
The cruise, organized by the Flat Earth International Conference, promises to be a lovely time.
Flat earthers – who include the rapper B.o.B. and reality television person Tila Tequila – will be able to enjoy restaurants, swimming pools and perhaps even an artificial surf wave.
Vniversale descrittione di tvtta la terra conoscivta fin qvi. Ferando Berteli, 1565,
based on an earlier map by Giacomo Gastaldi
(source LOC)

There’s just one problem for those seeking to celebrate the flatness of the Earth.
The navigational systems cruise ships, and other vessels, use rely on the fact that the Earth is not flat: theoretically puncturing the beliefs of the flat Earth crowd.

 This iconic image speaks volumes.
To many it underscores the vastness of space, the loneliness of the cosmos and how fragile our home planet really is.
Entitled “Earthrise,” it was taken by astronaut William Anders during an orbit of the moon as part of the Apollo 8 mission.
Apollo 8 was the first manned mission to the moon, which entered the Moon’s orbit on Christmas Eve 1968.
That evening, the astronauts onboard held a live broadcast, in which they showed pictures of the Earth and moon as seen from their spacecraft. Command Module Pilot Jim Lovell said, "The vast loneliness is awe-inspiring and it makes you realize just what you have back there on Earth."
The astronauts ended the broadcast with the crew taking turns reading from the book of Genesis.
source : NASA

“Ships navigate based on the principle that the Earth is round,” said Henk Keijer, a former cruise ship captain who sailed all over the globe during a 23-year career.
“Nautical charts are designed with that in mind: that the Earth is round.”
Keijer, who now works as a forensic marine expert for Robson Forensic, said the existence of GPS, the global positioning system, alone is proof that the Earth is a sphere, not a flat disc. GPS relies on 24 main satellites which orbit the Earth to provide positional and navigational information.
“The reason why 24 satellites were used is because on the curvature of the Earth,” Keijer said.
“A minimum of three satellites are required to determine a position. But someone located on the other side of the Earth would also like to know their position, so they also require a certain number of satellites.
“Had the Earth been flat, a total of three satellites would have been enough to provide this information to everyone on Earth. But it is not enough, because the Earth is round.”

Proof of the sphericity of the Earth advanced by Pliny the Elder 
(and not by Aristotle, as is often said.)
Low-resolution digitization of a figure published in the book Voyages des Astronomes français à la recherche de la figure de la terre et de ses dimensions by Abbé J. Loridan (Desclée, de Brouwer et Cie, Lille, 1890).

While there are different theories within the Flat Earth community, the core belief is the Earth is flat.
The FEIC claims that after “extensive experimentation, analysis, and research”, its adherents came to believe the Earth is not a sphere.
A common model offered for the exact topography of the Earth is that it is a large disk, surrounded by “an ice wall barrier” – Antarctica.

 credit : RT composite

The Flat Earth Society, which is not connected to the FEIC, has suggested that “the space agencies of the world” have conspired to fake “space travel and exploration”.
“This likely began during the cold war,” the Flat Earth Society says.
“The USSR and USA were obsessed with beating each other into space to the point that each faked their accomplishments in an attempt to keep pace with the other’s supposed achievements.”

 New correct map of the flat surface, stationary earth
Other TitleWhen reading map lay it flat on table
Contributor Names : Abizaid, John George, 1868-
source : LOC

The FEIC did not respond to requests for more information on the Flat Earth cruise.

The organization could potentially try to staff the cruise ship with a crew which does not think the Earth is round, but Keijer said that would be difficult.
“I have sailed 2 million miles, give or take,” Keijer said.
“I have not encountered one sea captain who believes the Earth is flat.”

Links :

Saturday, January 12, 2019

So close! SpaceX fairing test ends with narrow miss of ship's net

SpaceX has been attempting to recover the fairings from the Falcon 9 rocket with a net-carrying ship, named Mr. Steven, in hopes of reusing them.
In the latest test, it narrowly missed the net. 

Commercial rocket company SpaceX has built its business model around recovering as much of its equipment as possible after each launch.
Reused rockets save SpaceX tens of millions of dollars for each flight, relative to single-use operations, and that savings can be passed on to its customers.  

To make recoveries possible, SpaceX has developed several novel methods for retrieving components at sea.
It has two autonomous deck barges that serve as offshore landing pads for booster rockets, and it has recovered multiple boosters after launch from its Cape Canaveral site.
One recent at-sea recovery made history: on December 3, a SpaceX orbital-class booster rocket became the first of its kind to make three full round trips, thanks to a successful deck barge landing.

SpaceX is also developing a specialized workboat to retrieve rocket nose cone fairings - the high tech aerodynamic shells that surround the payload during launch.
This unusual boat, dubbed Mr. Stevens, is intended to work like a catcher's mitt.
It is a fast crewboat retrofitted with a large net above its back deck, and its role is to maneuver underneath a fairing as it falls towards the sea.
(The fairings are equipped with parachutes, slowing their descent.)

So far, the catching tests have not been successful, but the but the boat has still managed to recover the fairings from the water for later reuse.
After the Mr. Stevens missed two fairings from a live launch last year, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said that the "plan is to dry them out and launch again. Nothing wrong with a little swim."

In another recent test, a helicopter dropped a fairing from altitude so that the Mr. Stevens could make an attempt at a catch (top).
The effort was not successful, but the boat came within feet of landing the fairing.
Musk has previously said that each fairing is worth $6 million, raising the prospect of significant savings from recovery and reuse.

Links :

Friday, January 11, 2019

Accident research highlights concerns over technology use

From Marimec by Gavin Lipsith

Technical failures have been identified as the immediate cause of 7.9% of maritime accidents analysed in a study spanning more than 600 incidents over 15 years.

The study by the Seafarers International Research Centre (SIRC) at Cardiff University looked at 693 accident investigation reports from the UK, Australia, the US, New Zealand, Germany and Denmark between 2002 and 2016.

Numbers of accident investigation reports by country of origin

It placed inadequate risk management as the leading cause of accidents, representing the immediate cause in 17% of cases and a contributory cause in 27.1%.

Technology featured prominently in accident reports, with technical failures the sixth most frequent immediate cause.
But ineffective use of technology was a bigger concern, noted as either an immediate or contributory cause in 115 cases (16.6%) compared to just 80 cases (11.5%) for technical failures.

As an example of a technical failure, the report cited the engineroom fire on board anchor handling tug/supply vessel Maersk Master in 2008.
The water mist system did not start automatically (because of inappropriate placement of smoke and heat detectors) and could not be engaged immediately by using the control panel by the engineroom entrance.

 Credit: The causes of maritime accidents in the period 2002-2016
by Acejo, I., Sampson, H., Turgo, N., Ellis, N., Tang, L. (November 2018)

The report differentiates between ineffective use, when technology has not been used to its full potential, and inappropriate use, when it had been misused.
In accidents involving collisions, ineffective and inappropriate use of technology combined were the leading contributory cause, present in 31% of cases.

When Spirent took part in the STAVOG project to analyse the impact of GPS disruption on sea vessels, it found low-level interference could degrade signals, causing positioning readings to be out by up to 270 metres.

An inappropriate use of technology was highlighted as a cause of the collision between general cargo vessels Francisca and RMS Bremen in 2014.
The officers on watch on both vessels failed to verify GPS positions, which were in fact false as the result of a technical fault, by means of another system (such as radar) or by sight.

Other noteworthy causes include inadequate training or experience (a factor in 16.3% of cases), inappropriate or ineffective maintenance (12.1%), poor design (10.9%) and lack of manufacturer guidance (4.2%).

Links :

    Thursday, January 10, 2019

    Australia (AHS) layer update in the GeoGarage platform

    56 nautical raster charts updated

    New IBM weather system to provide vastly improved forecasting around the world

    An August 2018 monsoon in India, shown at left by the best current weather model that operates at 13-kilometer resolution.
    At right, the new IBM Global High-Resolution Atmospheric Forecasting System (GRAF) operates at 3-km resolution and updates 6 to 12 times more often.
    Credit: IBM
     From PRnewswire

    New global weather forecasting system can crowdsource data from millions of previously untapped sources and will provide accurate, rapidly updated local forecasts worldwide

    IBM and its subsidiary The Weather Company today unveiled a powerful new global weather forecasting system that will provide the most accurate local weather forecasts ever seen worldwide.
    The new IBM Global High-Resolution Atmospheric Forecasting System (GRAF) will be the first hourly-updating commercial weather system that is able to predict something as small as thunderstorms globally.

    Compared to existing models, it will provide a nearly 200% improvement in forecasting resolution for much of the globe (from 12 to 3 sq km).
    It will be available later this year.

    GRAF uses advanced IBM POWER9-based supercomputers, crowdsourced data from millions of sensors worldwide, and in-flight data to create more localized, more accurate views of weather globally.

     Ginny Rometteti talks about the new weather forecasting system

    IBM Chairman and CEO Ginni Rometty announced GRAF at CES 2019 in Las Vegas.
    "Today, weather forecasts around the world are not created equal, so we are changing that," said Cameron Clayton, general manager of Watson Media and Weather for IBM.
    "Weather influences what people do day-to-day and is arguably the most important external swing factor in business performance.
    As extreme weather becomes more common, our new weather system will ensure every person and organization around the world has access to more accurate, more finely-tuned weather forecasts."

    Simulation of Hurricane Katrina at 3km resolution
    A regional climate model simulation of Hurricane Katrina at 3 km resolution, part of a study published in Nature by Berkeley Lab researchers Christina Patricola and Michael Wehner.
    The study found that climate change intensified the amount of rainfall in recent hurricanes such as Katrina, Irma, and Maria by 5 to 10 percent.
    This material is based upon work supported by the U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Science.
    This research used resources of the National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center (NERSC), a DOE Office of Science User Facility.

    Today, outside of the United States, Japan and a handful of other countries primarily in Western Europe, the rest of the world has to settle for less accurate forecasts for predictions that cover 12- to 15-kilometer swaths of land — too wide to capture many weather phenomena.
    And, traditionally, leading weather models update less frequently, only every 6 to 12 hours.
    In contrast, GRAF will provide 3-kilometer resolution that updates hourly, delivering reliable predictions for the day ahead.

    The new system will be the first to draw on untapped data such as sensor readings from aircrafts, overcoming the lack of specialized weather equipment in many parts of the world.
    It will also give people the opportunity to contribute to helping improve weather forecasts globally, as it will be able to make use of pressure sensor readings sent from barometers found within smartphones if people opt-in to sharing that information.
    The Weather Company will assure it conforms to the relevant operating system terms of use.
    Additionally, hundreds of thousands of weather stations, many run by amateur weather enthusiasts, can also contribute data to the model.

    While the resulting volume of data would be too much for most supercomputers, this powerful new model analyzes data using IBM POWER9 technology, which is behind the U.S. Department of Energy's Summit and Sierra, the world's most powerful supercomputers.

    The Global Ocean in the DOE Energy Exascale Earth System Model (E3SM)
    Climate research at the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) includes the development of ocean, sea-ice, atmosphere, land-vegetation and land-ice models.
    The ability to run high-resolution global simulations efficiently on the world’s largest computers is a priority for the DOE.
    This movie shows simulations from the variable-resolution ocean model, the Model for Prediction Across Scales (MPAS-Ocean), which is developed at Los Alamos National Laboratory. MPAS-Ocean is a component of the DOE’s newly released Energy, Exascale, Earth System Model (E3SM). Applications of E3SM include the simulation of 20th-century and future climate scenarios, as well as special configurations where model resolution is enhanced in regions of particular interest, like coastal areas, the Arctic, or below Antarctic ice shelves.
    Predictions from the new system will be made available globally later in 2019, helping airlines to better minimize disruption from turbulence; insurers to better prepare for storm recovery operations; utility companies to better position repair crews for outages; farmers to better anticipate and prepare for dramatic shifts in weather and more.

    Individuals and communities will be able to better plan for weather.
    Anyone with The Weather Channel app,, Weather Underground app, and any business that uses IBM offerings from The Weather Company – will be able to use these forecasts.

    The global weather from 20 October – 4 November 2012, 
    simulated by a cloud-resolving weather prediction model (NCAR)

    In addition to IBM's unique R&D investments, this advancement in global weather forecasting is made possible by The Weather Company's open-source collaboration with the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR).
    GRAF incorporates the latest-generation global weather model – the Model for Prediction Across Scales, or MPAS – which was developed by NCAR with the Los Alamos National Laboratory.

    Links :

    Wednesday, January 9, 2019

    Warming seas linked to bluefin tuna surge in UK waters

    AMO phases and spatiotemporal variability in habitat suitability and distribution of Atlantic bluefin tuna.
    (A and B) Anomalies of habitat suitability, reported occurrences (per 1° by 1° geographical cell; red dots), and mass centroids of occurrences (black dots) during (A) positive (1929–1962 and 1995 to present; nbins = 964) and (B) negative (1896–1928 and 1963–1994; nbins = 979) AMO phases. (C) Time series of mean anomalies (blue line) in the Nordic region [inset in (B)] from 1891 to 2011. Vertical dashed lines indicate abrupt changes in habitat suitability, and horizontal lines indicate the mean habitat suitability for each phase. The size of the tuna is proportional to its frequency of occurrence.

    From BBC by Matt McGrath

    Growing numbers of bluefin tuna are being seen in the waters around the UK because of the warming impact of a long term ocean current say researchers.

    These large, speedy fish are a globally endangered species and almost disappeared from the UK around 40 years ago.
    Scientists say that their recent rise is connected to the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation (AMO).
    Now in a warm phase, the current makes UK waters more hospitable for the fish.

    Bluefin tuna are one of the largest and fastest fish on the planet - they can weigh up to 900kg and can travel at speeds of up to 70 kilometres per hour (43mph).

     credit : Tom Horton

    In the 1930s, the species was a common sight in the seas off Scarborough and was highly prized by big-game fishers.

    Bluefin tuna landed in Scarborough in the 1930s.
    The Yorkshire resort was a major destination for big game fishing, attracting many celebrities of the day.
    (Photo: Scarborough Museums Trust/Scarborough Maritime Heritage Centre)
    Bluefin tuna landed in Scarborough in the 1930s. The Yorkshire resort was a major destination for big game fishing, attracting many celebrities of the day. (Photo: Scarborough Museums Trust/Scarborough Maritime Heritage Centre)

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    However, from the 1940s, the species began to decline and by the early 1990s had all but disappeared.
    But over the past five years or so, sightings of the warm blooded fish have increased off the UK once again with many of these encounters captured on social media.

    This situation has been mirrored in the Nordic seas, in the waters between Greenland and Norway which witnessed a spectacular collapse in tuna numbers in the 1960s, when the fish declined dramatically in just two years.

    Ensemble reconstructions of long-term fluctuations in Atlantic bluefin tuna abundance.
    (A and C) Historical records (black line) and predicted long-term fluctuations in abundance (averaged prediction as an orange line with 5 and 95% confidence intervals as gray shading) calculated from (A) 1634–1929 (preindustrial tuna fishery period) with no lag and (C) with a one-generation lag (16 years). (B and D) Mean relative influence [and associated SD (standard deviation)] of the four hydroclimatic variables used to reconstruct bluefin tuna abundance.

    Researchers now believe that the warming and cooling impact of the long term current, the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation is key to the ebb and flow of the species.
    The scientists' new paper has been published in the journal Science Advances.
    The team looked at the changing abundance and distribution of bluefin tuna in the Atlantic over the past 200 years.
    They've concluded that the major factor influencing the movement of bluefin is the AMO.
    "The ecological effects of the AMO have long been overlooked and our results represent a breakthrough in understanding the history of bluefin tuna in the North Atlantic," said lead author Dr Robin Faillettaz from the University of Lille.
    He believes that while current numbers of sightings of the UK may indicate that the species is doing well, this may not be the case everywhere.
    "When water temperature increases during a positive AMO, bluefin tuna move further north. However, the most positive (warming) phases of the AMO also have a detrimental effect upon recruitment in the Mediterranean, which is currently the most important spawning ground, and that will affect adult abundance a few years later."
    "If the AMO stays in a highly positive phase for several years, we may encounter more bluefin tuna in our waters but the overall population could actually be decreasing."

    The Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation (AMO) is variability occurring over many decades that is expressed in the sea surface temperatures of the North Atlantic.

    What is the AMO?

    It's a measure of a naturally occurring climate cycle in the North Atlantic that see sea surface temperatures rise and fall over long time periods.

    Approximately every 60 to 120 years the AMO switches between positive and negative phases. During positive (warm) phases, Ireland and the UK experience warmer weather but it also brings more hurricanes and drives drought in the US midwest. A cooler AMO can lead to drought in many parts of Africa.

    Teenager Joe Amos successfully hauled in this staggering giant 160 lbs bluefin tuna off the Cornish coast.
    The boat's skipper said it was the first ever bluefin tuna caught off the Cornish coast.
    credit : Solent news

    Will tuna fishing be allowed in the UK again?

    Right now the fishing of bluefin tuna in British waters is prohibited.
    But the recent rise in bluefin numbers has encouraged campaigners to petition the government to allow amateur fishers to catch the endangered species.

    The Angling Trust want to establish a "catch and release" licensed fishery which they believe would have enormous economic benefits for areas such as Cornwall.

    But the scientists involved with the latest study are cautious about this approach.
    "Bluefin tuna have been extensively overfished during the 20th century and the stock was close to its lowest in 1990, a fact that further indicates the recent changes in distribution are most likely environmentally driven rather than due to fisheries management and stock recovery," said co-author Dr Richard Kirby from the Secchi Disk Foundation.
    "Before we further exploit bluefin tuna either commercially or recreationally for sport fishing, we should consider whether it would be better to protect them by making the UK's seas a safe space for one of the ocean's most endangered top fish."

    The black line represents the ten year average. van Oldenborgh et al. / ERSSTv3b

    What about climate change?

    According to experts, the impact of global warming on top of the AMO is likely to alter the familiar patterns seen in bluefin tuna over several hundred years.
    The authors believe that increasing global temperatures may see the species persist for longer in cooler waters around the UK and in the Nordic seas.
    It might also cause the fish to disappear from the Mediterranean sea, the world's most important bluefin fishery.

    Links :

    Tuesday, January 8, 2019

    Converting plastic into energy may be key to cleaning oceans

    Race for Water, built at the Knieriem shipyards in Kiel/Germany in 2010 and formerly known as Planet Solar, became famous for circumnavigating the globe powered exclusively by a solar electric drive.
    The catamaran now forms the heart of the Race for Water Foundation which is dedicated to raising the public’s awareness of plastics pollution and educating it on preventing further environmental damage and pollution.
    credit : Julien Girardot

    From Forbes by Tom Mullen

    The interior of a wristwatch is a bit of a love story.

    This is where energies from separate coiled springs meet and repel before they harmonize; where escaping frisson from their tango transforms to the measurement of minutes.

    Energy within a watch interior is released via a coiled spring, then controlled by gear wheels and a device called an ‘escapement’ that basically transforms analog excitation into digital ticks.
    This device controls the flow of energy in a timepiece, much—though more intricately—as a bottleneck regulates the flow of sand through an hourglass.
    A separate coil, the internal balance spring, controls oscillation rates that propel the hands of a watch forward.
    This meshing of energies—kinetic and potential—between the main spring and balance spring is what drives the dance of time.

    Yet the impetus to strap accurate time pieces onto wrists came not from some global infatuation with punctuality or any burning desire to acquire utilitarian jewelry.
    It originated from desires, both military and commercial, to gain advantage in exploring oceans.
    Knowing latitude—a ship’s position along an imaginary east-west line—was historically not difficult.
    But calculating longitude—north to south disposition related to geographical poles—required knowing local times accurately.

     A Breguet Marine chronometer from 1813 that was used for experiments by Breguet and then given to the Bishop of Cambrai in 1822.
    It was the watchmaker’s “first piece in which the transmission from the train to the regulator occurs without friction.”

    Because pendulum clocks don’t synch well with roiling seas, and because rewards were offered to those who could create accurate and portable timepieces, precision wristwatches became a grounded reality in the latter portion of the 18th century.
    The need to accurately pinpoint sea locations is what married timekeeping and ocean travel.

     Three Breguet Marine Chronometers on display in the Musée des arts et métiers in Paris

    Renowned Swiss born watchmaker Abraham-Louis Breguet spent much of his life in Paris.
    He produced chronometers for King Louis XVI and for Queen Marie-Antoinette, and during his life increased the overall accuracy of timepieces.
    For this he became official chronometer-maker to the French navy, and was also appointed to the French Board of Longitude.

     At sea, the chronometer was the ship’s master timekeeper and never moved from its protective case.
    The chronometer was also used to set smaller deck watches, which could then be carried to and used in other parts of the ship.
    From the 1950s on, radio and satellite navigation gradually replaced chronometers.
    The Royal Observatory in London keeps a large collection for permanent preservation and study.

    Breguet still produces handsome, renowned chronometers.
    It also maintains an active association with ocean exploration.
    The focus now, however, is on cleanliness rather than navigational technology.
    The company is the main sponsor of the Race for Water Foundation—which aims to prevent oceans being polluted with plastics.

    Created in 2010 by Swiss entrepreneur Marco Simeoni, Race for Water Foundation’s first maritime expedition found that oceans are not coated in globs of plastic (conducive to being scooped or sucked up like debris) as much as they are soups laden with plastic microparticles, often too small to see.
    Simeoni described his thoughts regarding cleaning oceans.
    "I don’t believe in projects cleaning oceans.
    There is a soup of particles, only of which 10 percent are floating.
    Boats cleaning oceans will have little impact.
    So the fight is on land."

    Plastic is a problem, but it can be part of the solution

    Cleaning oceans, then, hinges on preventing plastics from entering their waters.
    Otherwise, at current rates of pollution, the predicted weight of all plastics in oceans will outweigh that of marine life by the year 2050.
    At present, about 10 percent of plastics end up in oceans, and probably 25 percent of fish now have plastics inside them.
    Some of that ends up in human digestive systems.

    The current Race for Water Odyssey Expedition is on a five-year global circumnavigation that will last until 2021.
    It is the only ocean vessel propelled exclusively by three sustainable fuels—all of which can be harvested and harnessed at sea.

     The Breguet-sponsored Race for Water expedition operates from a mixed solar-hydrogen-kite-powered vessel.

    The first is solar power.
    This derives from the boat's more than 5,500 square feet (500 square meters) of horizontal solar panels that make it resemble a slick insect more than a traditional sail or motor craft.
    The second comes from wind harnessed by a kite high in the sky.
    Controlled by an on-board computer that twirls its motion in figure 8’s, this sky kite generates pull.
    Yet after two days without sunshine, energy in the thousands of pounds of on-board solar batteries becomes depleted.
    A third energy source then kicks in: hydrogen that is stored in 25 bottles is converted to energy to provide propulsion.
    This hydrogen (extracted from sea water using energy from the solar panels) can propel the boat for another six days.

    The SkySails innovative kite propulsion system developed by SkySails Yacht GmbH of Hamburg/Germany was installed on Race for Water making the vessel the first kite-powered wind/solar hybrid yacht in history. (see video)

    Simeoni highlighted what makes this boat unique.
    It’s the only boat in the world using those three kinds of sustainable energies.
    It’s the mix of these three that we are playing with.
    This boat can now sail indefinitely.
    The only thing that can stop the boat is if we have some defective components.
    Without that, we can sail for years and years.

    If the key to cleaning plastic pollution is terrestrial, how does a boat propelled by alternative energies address this? It does so two ways.
    First, it makes stops to educate locals about perils and impacts of discarded plastics on their food supplies, health, and fishing industries.
    Second, it highlights the benefits of alternative energies, not only those used to propel the boat, but a new technology that is now converting plastics into fuel.

    This portable technology named Biogreen includes a patented process from the manufacturer Etia.
    This converts plastic to a gas which can be converted into energy.
    Basically, plastic is heated up to 1,470 degrees Fahrenheit (800 degrees Celsius) without oxygen, creating a gas that is then refined to eliminate dust and other pollutants (such as chlorine).
    The technology is modular and portable, meaning it can be shipped by container to any destination in the world, where it will then process up to 26,000 pounds (12 tonnes) of plastic a day.

     5 years, 35 stopovers, 10 scientific programs

    Economics drive practicality.
    That may relate to why the Race for Water Odyssey Expedition is currently island-hopping.
    Small islands clogged with plastic trash from visiting cruise ships are an ideal target for this technology; local energy costs are high, and space for burying waste on islands is limited.

    Simeoni mentioned Rapa Nui, or Easter Island, in the Pacific Ocean.
    This island is 3,000 kilometers (1,860 miles) from Chile and 4,000 kilometers (2,500 miles) from Polynesia.
    The machine costs are amortized over 10 years, and local collectors are paid $100 per tonne of plastics they collect.

    The resulting cost of energy from this plastic conversion technology will therefore be about 30 cents per kilowatt-hour.
    The fact that the current cost of energy on remote Rapa Nui is 70 cents per kilowatt-hour makes it economically viable to implement this Biogreen system.
    In contrast, energy in Lima, Peru, costs about 10 cents per kilowatt-hour, meaning that this technology would need to be subsidized in that city.

    Breguet - Race for Water Odyssey Expedition

    "And remember, we are cleaning the land.
    So Rapa Nui municipality will buy a machine.
    We’re not recycling; we’re transforming.
    Recycling is a big challenge.
    Why? Because there are seven families of plastics that cannot be mixed.
    Separation costs a lot.
    Second, you have to clean plastic with still water.

    The Biogreen unit requires no separation of plastics.
    It also has negligible impact on an island’s freshwater resources.

    The Odyssey expedition is now in Fiji on a stop during its slow journey westward.
    Simeoni compared the Race for Water boat to an island.
    People are impressed with this unique boat.
    I say, ‘Hey guys, it’s exactly what you need on your island to make energy: sun, water and wind.’

    Although the Race for Water vessel has weathered waves more than 15 feet (5 meters) high, has crossed the Atlantic and is now crossing the Pacific, it is not designed for rough conditions or high speeds (its average speed is five knots; the top speed is 10 knots).
    Navigators scrutinize weather data and steer toward clear conditions.
    Because sunshine is critical to generate energy, the boat does not travel too far north or south (Concepción, Chile, was its southernmost stopover).
    It has a permanent crew of five and enough space within a beautiful interior to host a gathering of up to 80 visitors at one time.

    The Race for Water boat is similar to a well-crafted watch: both are self-contained systems that generate their own energy, and their outer beauty cloaks intensely complex inner technology.
    Such similarities are hard to escape.
    The combination of watchmakers and ocean navigators once again is propelling improvements in both technology and exploration.
    Simeoni and the Race for Water team appreciate such support.

    We have 25 people working full time for the foundation.
    Thanks to Breguet we have full support.
    The best thing that will happen?
    I can no longer supply machines because there are no plastics in the oceans.
    Maybe that will happen in 50 years.

    Oceans will have changed by then, and technology will be more advanced.
    Quality chronometers made today, however, may still be ticking accurately.

    Links :