Launching this week in partnership with Airbus, Wilhelmsen’s shore-to-ship Singapore pilot project, marks the first deployment of drone technology in real-time port conditions, delivering a variety of small, time-critical items to working vessels at anchorage.
Lifting off from Marina South Pier in Singapore with 3D printed consumables from Wilhelmsen’s onshore 3D printing micro-factory, the Airbus Skyways drone navigated autonomously along pre-determined ‘aerial-corridors’ in its 1.5km flight to Eastern Working Anchorage.
The drone landed on the deck of the Swire Pacific Offshore (SPO)’s Anchor Handling Tug Supply (AHTS) vessel, M/V Pacific Centurion and deposited its 1.5kg cargo without a hitch before returning to its base.
The entire delivery, from take-off towards the vessel, to landing back at base, took just ten minutes.
Wilhelmsen and Airbus Trial Drone Deliveries to Singapore Anchorage
Though small drone delivery trials from tugboat to ship have been conducted before by a number of shipping companies and service providers, shore-to-ship delivery of this range and scope has never been explored, prior to this trial.
Commenting on the successful first delivery flight, Marius Johansen, VP Commercial, Wilhelmsen Ships Agency says, “The now proven, seamless operation of drone deliveries from shore-to-ship, in one of the world’s busiest ports, proves the hard work, investment and faith we, and indeed our partners, placed in the Agency by Air drone delivery project over the past two years was not misplaced”.
Operations began with a Toolbox Talk with the Wilhelmsen, Airbus and SPO crew to ensure that the risk assessment was understood by all parties.
With final safety checks completed, Wilhelmsen’s Marina South Pier team loaded the drone.
Supported by spotters stationed on board the vessel deck to ensure the safety of the crew and vessel, the drone took off towards the vessel, landing on the dedicated area on the main deck where the parcel was retrieved by the officer on board.
Offering a more cost effective, quicker and safer means of delivering, small, time-critical items to vessels, Wilhelmsen sees delivery by drone, rather than launch boat, as part and parcel of their continued evolution of the agency business.
Johansen adds, “Delivery of essential spares, medical supplies and cash to Master via launch boat, is an established part of our portfolio of husbandry services, which we provide day in and day out, in ports all over the world.
Modern technology such as Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS), is just a new tool, albeit a very cool one, with which we can push our industry ever forward and improve how we serve our customers”.
Less labour dependent than delivery via launch, autonomous Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) can potentially reduce delivery costs by up to 90% in some ports and have a smaller carbon footprint than launch boats.
SPO has been an important partner during the detailed final preparation and operational testing of the drone, with the provision of its Anchor Handling Tug Supply (AHTS) vessels.
“Swire Pacific Offshore is excited to partner with Wilhelmsen in supporting the first shore-to-ship drone pilot project with our vessel, M/V Pacific Centurion.
Wilhelmsen and SPO share a longstanding working partnership.
We’re confident that this pioneering move of Wilhelmsen will create new opportunities for future collaborations with SPO, improve work efficiency and drive cost savings for players in the offshore industry,” says Duncan Telfer, Commercial Director, SPO.
Prior to the official launch of this shore-to-ship commercial drone delivery, SPO’s Anchor Handling Tug Supply Vessel (AHTS).
M/V Pacific Rapier has also facilitated the earlier pre-trial session in Singapore waters.
Signing a unique MOU with aeronautics company Airbus in June 2018, Wilhelmsen was tasked with setting up the necessary maritime and port operations, gaining relevant approvals from port authorities, with Airbus the overall Skyways system architect and provider, contributing its expertise in aeronautical vertical lift solutions to develop the UAS for shore-to-ship deliveries.
"We are thrilled to launch the first trial of its kind in the maritime world.
Today’s accomplishment is a culmination of months of intense preparation by our dedicated team, and the strong collaboration with our partner, as we pursue new terrain in the maritime industry," says Leo Jeoh, Airbus Skyways Lead.
The ongoing pilot trial will for now, focus on offshore supply vessels at anchorage 1.5km from the pier.
With operational safety as a priority, flights will be limited to this distance for the time being, before the flight range is gradually extended to as far as 3km from the shore.
Marina South Pier with the GeoGarage platform (UKHO/MPA nautical chart)
The Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) is facilitating the trial, which started in late November 2018, through the interim use of Marina South Pier as the launching and landing point for Airbus’ delivery drone.
At the same time, MPA has designated anchorages for vessels to anchor off Marina South for the trial.
The Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore is also working with Wilhelmsen and Airbus to ensure safety of the trials.
A number of customers have already committed to the project including, Optimum Marine Management, Fleet Management, Zeaborn Ship Management, Pola East, SK Shipping, and sister company Wilhelmsen Ship Management.
Lines (57° 59′ N, 7° 16’W) — a breathtaking art installation in Scotland
brings attention to projected sea-level rise by showing the projected
height of sea-level rise
Recent studies in Science
and other journals have shown that existing projections of sea-level
rise have been extremely conservative.
New projections, in light of
ocean warming that is 40% higher than previously estimated, show that
sea-level rise will become a challenge much sooner than expected.
and the New York Times have
reported extensively on the effect of sea-level rise on the low-lying
Marshall islands, a US territory whose president last week announced a
new plan to raise the islands, in order to avert the worst.
reports rarely receive the attention they deserve, due to the nature of
our current political climate in the U.S. and worldwide.
However, two Finnish artists this week punched through the news cycle with stunning images of their new art installation, showing a brightly lit line mounted on buildings in a town in Scotland, lying on one of the Hebridean islands.
Pekka Niittyvirta and Timo Aho describe their artwork:
the use of sensors, the installation interacts with the rising tidal
changes; activating three synchronized light lines by the high tide.
work helps us to imagine the future sea level rise in undefined period
of time, depending on our actions towards the climate warming.
installation explores the catastrophic impact of our relationship with
nature and its long term effects.
The work provokes a dialogue on how
the rising sea levels will affect coastal areas, its inhabitants and
land usage in the future.
Loch Maddy with the GeoGarage platform (UKHO chart)
is specifically relevant in the low lying island archipelagos like the
Uist in the Outer Hebrides off the west coast of Scotland, and in
particular to Taigh Chearsabhagh Museum & Arts Centre in Lochmaddy
where the installation is situated.
The centre cannot develop on its
existing site due to predicted storm surge.
will let these stunning images speak for themselves, a terrific,
terrifying example of breathtaking art in the service of a powerful,
vital message highlighting — it seems appropriate to say — how the
future of the ocean is inextricably tied to our own.
Sharks become unlikely detectives as marine ecologists discover a link between their acoustic telemetry data and the presence of illegal fishing vessels.
Researchers acoustically tagged 95 silvertip and grey reef sharks to assess whether the creation of the British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT) Marine Protected Area was helping to protect these species.
Detailed in a recently released paper, the almost simultaneous loss of 15 acoustic tags coincided with the capture of two illegal fishing vessels, arrested for having 359 sharks on board.
While helping to map sharks’ movements around the reef, scientists expect that they will be able to use data collected from the acoustic tags to predict the presence of illegal fishing vessels.
In April 2015, researchers headed out to the Chagos Archipelago in the Indian Ocean to service acoustic receivers they had dotted around the archipelago, and to download tag data from the 95 grey reef and silvertip sharks they had tagged a year prior.
Little did they know that over the course of 10 days during the previous December, 15 of their tagged individuals had been illegally fished.
Illegal fishing has increased in one of the worlds largest Marine Protected Area (MPA) since it was set up in 2010.
Chagos Archipelago, otherwise known as the British Indian Ocean
Territory, created among controversy, boasts the BIOT Marine Protected
Area comprising of 210,040 square miles of marine habitat, including an
archipelago of seven atolls, at least 70 islands, and some of the
world's most pristine coral reefs.
Researchers had previously recorded sharp declines in reef shark abundances .which the creation of the MPA had hoped to reverse.
research now suggests that the removal of reef fish has increased since
2013, and that sharks are being deliberately targeted.
2010 and 2015, 91% of illegal fishing vessels in the BIOT had sharks on
board, and when present, sharks made up 79% of the catch.
2,000 sharks may have been caught in December 2014 alone, including
more than 200 grey reef sharks and almost 900 silvertip sharks.
This would have constituted a loss of one-third of the shark population in that part of BIOT.
However, conservationists believe technology will enable conservation to make significant progress in coming years.
The Chagos Archipelago, otherwise known as the British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT), boasts one of the largest marine reserves in the world.
The BIOT Marine Protected Area was created in 2010 and comprises 544,000 square kilometers (210,040 square miles) of marine habitat, including an archipelago of seven atolls, at least 70 islands, and some of the world’s most pristine coral reefs.
Salomans Atoll in the Chagos Archipelago: the atolls are believed to serve as nurseries for juvenile sharks.
Image by Anne Sheppard.
The British Government created the reserve to conserve the archipelago’s biodiverse ecosystems, amidst concerns that increased fishing pressure from neighboring countries, including India and Sri Lanka, would decimate populations of important marine species.
The sheltered atolls of BIOT attract several species of pelagic and reef shark; here, mothers can give birth without their young being immediately threatened with predation, and juveniles can learn to hunt in lagoons before heading into the open ocean.
Researchers have been recording shark populations in BIOT since the 1970s, and it has become clear that the numbers they are witnessing now are not what they should be.
“[Researchers] recorded sharp declines in reef shark abundances… which the creation of the marine reserve in 2010 hoped to reverse,” said David Tickler, a researcher from the University of Western Australia studying the effects of illegal shark fishing in the Indian Ocean.
Sudden declines in populations of any species are never good news; however, sharks are particularly vulnerable to these changes due to their ambling life history.
“Sharks are very slow-growing,” David Jacoby, a Zoological Society of London (ZSL) researcher studying shark social networks in BIOT, told Mongabay.
“They’re very late to mature and they have very few offspring, so if you suddenly remove a large proportion of the population that are aggregating… then the recovery is long and the impacts can be huge.”
Acoustic telemetry of high-fidelity reef sharks
Acoustic telemetry is becoming an increasingly popular method of data collection for marine conservationists.
Researchers from ZSL, the University of Western Australia, and the Stanford University Hopkins Marine Station have collaboratively been using acoustic transmitters to track the movements of reef sharks around the marine reserve since 2013.
Researchers from the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) fit a silvertip shark in the British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT) with a tracking tag.
Acoustic tags emit unique sound pulses that underwater receiving units record, along with the tag’s unique code, a time stamp, and optional environmental data.
Acoustic data can suggest residency patterns within the network of receivers, with gaps in detection assumed to be absences from the area.
Image by David Curnick, courtesy of ZSL.
“Acoustic tags transmit a series of sound pulses (a bit like Morse code), which are picked up by hydrophones [receivers] to locate the position of a tagged animal,” Tickler said.
“Depending on local conditions around a hydrophone, accuracy of position fixes can be a few hundred meters… [Therefore] acoustic telemetry is much better suited to relatively resident animals, such as reef sharks, whose movements are typically too short to be reliably detected with satellite tags.”
After rigorous development and strict ethical reviews, Tickler and colleagues acoustically tagged 47 grey reef sharks (Carcharhinus amblyrhynchos) and 48 silvertip sharks (Carcharhinus albimarginatus) in BIOT.
They monitored the sharks throughout 2013-2014.
“When we were putting these tags in, we wanted to find out what areas within the marine protected area and the archipelago are more or less important at certain times of the year than others,” said David Curnick, a ZSL researcher investigating the relationships between marine reserves and sharks.
“Seeing whether there is social clustering both in time and space, you can then direct monitoring [of illegal activity] and enforcement to these areas.”
Illegal fisheries target sharks
In 2015, MRAG Ltd. published a paper detailing the extent of illegal fishing in BIOT.
The results suggested that the removal of reef fish has increased since 2013, and that sharks are being deliberately targeted.
Between 2010 and 2015, 91 percent of illegal fishing vessels in BIOT had sharks on board, and when present, sharks made up 79 percent of the catch.
These data concur with global fisheries statistics; the mass-capture of endangered sharks has been recorded off the coast of Argentina, along the Mid-Atlantic ridge, and in the Galápagos Marine Reserve where 6,000 sharks were found onboard one vessel.
These jaw-dropping figures are fueled by several factors; however, the demand for shark fin soup is by far the largest threat facing shark populations.
Shark fin soup is a traditional Chinese dish often served at weddings and other special occasions in China.
The soup usually contains meat from the dorsal fin of the shark, which gives the soup its texture, while other flavorings, such as chicken, provide the taste.
Since 2011, following a star-studded campaign, shark fin soup consumption in China has decreased by a staggering 80 percent.
However, growing popularity of the dish in other areas of Southeast Asia, such as Thailand and Vietnam, could indicate shark fin’s disassociation from the expensive, exclusive meat it once was, and represent an increase in its availability, thus making the policing of biodiverse areas like BIOT even more critical.
Acoustic telemetry data uncover illegal fishing
Collecting data through wildlife tracking does have limitations, including their inevitable malfunction, damage to the tag, or the migration or predation of a tagged animal.
Even though acoustic tags have a life expectancy of up to 10 years, a certain degree of tag loss is expected.
Before April 2014, shark researchers in BIOT saw an average loss of 4.1 tags per month.
However, in December 2014, 15 tags stopped recording data over the course of ten days.
The scientists investigated these potential causes of tag loss, but all seemed unlikely given the baseline tag loss rate that had been established.
“We’d heard about a big illegal fishing incident from the fisheries officer in BIOT during the April 2015 expedition,” Tickler said.
“We didn’t think much more about it until we plotted out the tag detections and saw a big drop off in activity during the same month.
When we looked at the sighting and arrest reports from the marine reserve’s patrol boat, we found the sightings had all occurred just after our tags stopped transmitting.”
The scientists’ graph displaying the trend in tag loss rate from April 2013 to April 2015.
In December 2014, there is a sudden drop-off, which represents the 15 tags that stopped recording data.
Image is Figure 1 of Tickler et al (2019), “Potential detection of illegal fishing by passive acoustic telemetry” in Animal Biotelemetry, CC 4.0
The BIOT patrol vessel encountered 17 suspected illegal fishing vessels in December 2014, which coincided with the dates the tags stopped transmitting.
Authorities caught two of the vessels and found a combined catch of 359 sharks on board; grey reef and silvertip sharks made up half their catch.
Using historical fisheries data, and assuming that this was a typical catch, over 2,000 sharks may have been caught in December 2014 alone, including more than 200 grey reef sharks and almost 900 silvertip sharks.
This would have constituted a loss of one-third of the shark population in that part of BIOT.
After modelling the fishing events and tag losses, the team were able to prove that there was a link between the loss of 15 tags and the illegal fishing vessels found in December 2014.
“Our study showed that a small number of tags (fewer than 50) was sufficient to detect an illegal fishing event,” Tickler added, “most likely because we were monitoring one of the key target species of the illegal fishery.”
Using acoustic tags to tackle illegal fishing in BIOT
The research team in BIOT showed that by combining acoustic telemetry data, historical fisheries data, and recorded illegal activity, conservationists can successfully implicate illegal fishing vessels.
However, acoustic technology has a way to go before it can be used as a routine tracking method for illegal activity in marine reserves.
“In this case we were only able to analyze the data several months after the tagged animals had been caught,” Tickler said.
“New tag technologies being developed will allow tags to report their location the instant they are removed from the water, pinpointing fishing and allowing direct interception or observation of the vessels.”
Until data can be uploaded from tags faster than they are currently, the extent of illegal fishing will remain elusive.
But the data the team have and are continuing to collect are already helping them to understand where sharks are going to be and when, which is essential if marine reserves are to reach their full potential.
“If we can identify ecological hotspots of shark aggregations or areas where you see high movements between specific areas, and we know at what time of year they occur,” said Jacoby, “then we can direct the enforcement vessels to be there at that time on the off-chance that fishermen also have that information and are purposely targeting that area.”
ZSL researchers release a silvertip shark in BIOT after fitting it with an acoustic tag.
Advances in electronic tagging may help law enforcement reduce illegal fishing in protected areas by remotely detecting fishing events as they happen.
Image by David Curnick, courtesy of ZSL.
With acoustic technology improving each year, the potential for it to help conservationists monitor and detect illegal fishing in marine reserves is increasing.
Alongside acoustic technology, ZSL researchers are carrying out research to evaluate the effectiveness of sensors borne by aerial and aquatic drones, paired with the use of satellite imagery, to identify illegal activity.
Tickler is optimistic that technology will enable conservationists to make significant progress in coming years.
“Managing our impact on marine ecosystems will be a vital challenge in the coming decades, and technology that increases transparency and fosters more sustainable use of the ocean will be needed to ensure we do not exceed its limits,” he said.
“Using animals as sentinels, both to detect illegal activity and to monitor environmental conditions, extends our capabilities and reach, making us more effective stewards of our oceans.”
US Navy defense contractors and subcontractors have reportedly suffered “more than a handful” of disconcerting security breaches at the hands of Chinese hackers over the past year and a half. “Attacks on our networks are not new, but attempts to steal critical information are increasing in both severity and sophistication,” Secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer said.
Although the secretary did not mention China specifically, evidence indicates that Beijing is responsible for what is considered a debilitating cyber campaign against the US.
Chinese hackers are alleged to have targeted universities around the world in a bid to steal naval secrets.
A total of 27 institutions, including the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) are understood to have been singled out by a cyber-espionage group.
Security research company iDefence says hackers sent malicious emails to their targets.
One expert told the BBC that the attacks were "unsurprising".
A report by the Accenture-owned unit iDefense, first obtained by the Wall Street Journal, claims Chinese hackers carried out a targeted campaign against institutions in the US, Canada and South East Asia.
While the full list of universities has not been revealed, iDefense says they share a common interest in research on underwater warfare technology - particularly the launching of submarine missiles.
The attackers used a technique called "spear phishing", which involved sending emails that were made to look like they had been sent by other universities, but which contained malware that allowed the hackers to access stored research.
"If a university is operating with classified material it should operate to the same standards as the government," Ewan Lawson, senior research fellow at the Royal United Services Institute (Rusi), told the BBC.
"But the reality of a lot of this is that [the hackers] are not necessarily going after classified material. They may be trying to identify who the researchers are, who the key thinkers are."
Many of the institutes targeted had ties to the largest hub of oceanographic research in the US, the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.
This in turn has strong ties to the US Navy. It is likely that the centre had been breached, according to iDefense.
The analysts behind the report say they have "moderate to high confidence" that the perpetrator of the hacks is a known Chinese group called Mudcarp, which goes by other names including Temp.Periscope and Leviathan.
They came to this conclusion after analysing the malware sent to the universities, and finding indicators associated with Mudcarp's previous activity.
"Any technology or program that involves the delivery or launching of a payload from a submerged submarine, or undersea autonomous vehicles, is of high interest to Mudcarp," the report says.
The group's connection to the Chinese government is not certain.
Chinese officials have not immediately responded to a request for comment from the BBC.
The country has previously denied state-sponsored hacking efforts.
In 2015 it labelled allegations that Chinese hackers had breached the US Office of Personnel Management "irresponsible and unscientific".
This follows a separate investigation by security firm FireEye, which similarly found evidence that a Chinese group - which it calls APT 40 - has pursued information relating to maritime technologies over the course of several years.
FireEye says it has also observed "specific targeting of countries strategically important to the Belt and Road Initiative", including Germany, the US and the UK.
The Belt and Road Initiative is an ambitious plan by the Chinese government that encompasses new global trade routes, across land and water.
According to Mr Lawson, Chinese cyber-espionage efforts to gather information about potential future naval routes is "unsurprising", particularly if the nation is seeking details on the underwater attack capabilities of other countries.
"If you're trying to keep you adversaries from as far as your shores as possible, having some understanding of their abilities to attack you [from] subsurface makes sense."
"Is the West trying to do the same with Chinese military technology? I wouldn't bet my money against it."
An artist's visualization of Harald in the ocean, detecting and measuring chlorophyll a as an indication of phytoplankton amounts and locations.
Image: David Fierstein and Arild Hareide
From Gemini Search by Nancy Bazilchuk Phytoplankton form the base of the marine food chain but are notoriously difficult for scientists to account for — a little like trying to identify and count motes of dust in the air. A truly independent underwater vehicle shows it can do the job.
Trygve Olav Fossum watched an orange, torpedo-shaped instrument slide off the R/V Gunnerus and plop into the coastal waters near the island called Runde.
It was June 2017 and Fossum, a PhD candidate at NTNU, was part of a team of researchers trying to find answers to a vexing problem.
Runde, a triangle-shaped island off the mid-Norwegian coast, is known for its large seabird populations, including Atlantic puffins and Northern Gannets.
In recent years, bird numbers here and in much of the North Atlantic have dropped precipitously.
No one knows quite why.
As a first step in their search for clues, NTNU researchers had assembled an interdisciplinary team of geologists, biologists, mathematicians, computer scientists and engineers, like Fossum, whose two metre-long autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) would contribute to one of the most unusual pieces of information on the Gunnerus’s week-long survey.
Harald the smart AUV off on its hunt for phytoplankton patches.
Photo: Trygve Fossum, NTNU
Fossum’s AUV, named after the Norwegian oceanographer Harald Sverdrup, would collect information that allowed scientists to make a 3-D map of hot spots of phytoplankton.
These are the tiny single-celled algal cells at the base of the food chain.
Their microscopic size and tendency to collect in patches have made this information nearly impossible for biologists to gather in the past.
The AUV was programmed to think on the go — “seeing” where the phytoplankton were, choosing its own course to zoom in on patches in an area to get a better sample.
Scientists call this “adaptive sampling.” The 3-D maps, in turn, could provide important clues as to why bird populations around Runde were plummeting.
Puffins, photographed on Runde Island during early summer.
Populations of puffins and other seabirds that nest on Runde’s steep cliffs have dropped dramatically in recent years.
Photo: Rick Strimbeck/NTNU
Zooplankton eat phytoplankton.
Little fish eat zooplankton.
Bigger fish eat the smaller fish.
Finally, seabirds like puffins feast on these patches of fish.
If something was changing phytoplankton amounts or distribution, it could set off a chain reaction that could affect the birds.
Having a smart AUV that can be programmed to seek out phytoplankton patches “is a complete game-changer,” says Geir Johnsen, an NTNU biologist is collaborating on the project.
The results from Harald’s tour in the waters off Runde were recently reported in Science Robotics.
The map is a screenshot that illustrates typical boat traffic near the island of Runde, which is indicated with the orange arrow.
Runde island with the GeoGarage platform (NHS nautical chart)
Large areas of unknown, and concentrated patches of fecundity
Marine biologists face a fundamental problem.
The ocean is deep, broad and generally poorly understood.
Some areas are more interesting than others, especially the small, concentrated areas that teem with life, such as coastal waters or the places where currents meet.
To do their job, biologists need to understand what factors make some patches of ocean fertile while others are not.
Biologists describe this situation as, well, “patchiness,” Fossum said.
The patchiness of phytoplankton is related to a number of different biophysical interactions, such as currents, turbulence and mixing, and biological processes, like how many other creatures are eating the phytoplankton.
“That means it’s a very hard question to figure out what controls the patchiness of these organisms in the ocean,” Fossum said.
Coloured scanning electron micrograph (SEM) of Ceratium spp., one of the main types of phytoplankton being studied off Runde.
Photo: NTB scanpix Science Photo Library
Even if you are in a place that’s known to be a hot spot, patchiness can make it difficult to accurately quantify marine organisms in the area, especially if you are taking samples from a research boat, says Glaucia Fragoso, a postdoc at NTNU’s Department of Biology who was on the cruise with Fossum.
“If we drop our sampler in the wrong spot, we may undersample and underestimate phytoplankton numbers,” she said.
“Or if we drop our sampler right in the middle of a patch, we can overestimate.”
Why patches are where they are
That’s what makes the adaptive sampling of Harald, the AUV, so unique, Fragoso said.
Given an area to explore, it can make a 3-D map of phytoplankton patches.
And knowing where patches are allows scientists to study other characteristics of that area so they better understand why the patches are where they are.
“Is the (phytoplankton) concentration there because of salinity?” said Fossum.
“Maybe the phytoplankton are concentrated along a temperature or salinity layer, or maybe there is some other physical effect that is keeping them where they are?”
Knowing where and why phytoplankton aggregate and cluster in different ways can help answer questions about creatures that depend on the ocean for food, like the seabirds at Runde.
Seabirds typically nest in areas where they have easy access to food, since they have to feed themselves and their chicks, too.
So figuring out phytoplankton amounts and where they are, in combination with other measurements, may help explain larger trends in seabird populations.
Adaptive sampling for greater detail
Harald was programmed with a sophisticated brain and equipped with a special measuring device called an ECOpuck nestled in its backside.
When Fossum released it into the water that June day, Harald would roam the ocean’s depths in an area bounded by a 700×700 metre box, collecting information to make a 3-D map of phytoplankton.
The ECOpuck doesn’t actually measure phytoplankton itself, but something called chlorophyll a fluorescence.
Phytoplankton use chlorophyll a pigments in the process of photosynthesis, and the substance fluoresces red when exposed to light.
The ECOpuck detects the fluorescence, which can indicate how much phytoplankton biomass is found in the water.
At the start of the AUV’s journey, it takes measurements on the sides of the box and then gradually zooms into the area outlined by the box as it detects the region that seems to have the most chlorophyll a, Fossum says
“It boxes in a volume of water and based on what it sees, it estimates what is inside,” he said.
“Then it plans a route for inside and makes a map of the most interesting region.
What I really want from this is an accurate map, with the accuracy where it is most needed — where the plankton aggregation is high.”
The researchers also relied on other sampling methods to collect even more information about plankton around Runde, including a special camera that took pictures of individual plankton, and counted and identified them automatically to help verify the results from the AUV.
A future for ships and AUVs
In spite of the success of the AUV, Fossum and others explain that biologists still need to gather information from other sources — like research cruises aboard the R/V Gunnerus.
“Oceanography is moving towards combined efforts to collect data, where robotic sampling is an essential part, providing capabilities and resolution that were previously unattainable with traditional methods,” Fossum said.
“The ultimate goal is to effectively measure the impact of climate change in the ecosystem, for example.”
Fossum says there’s a need for much more persistent monitoring of Norway’s coasts, marine protected areas, and fragile habitats.
“The goal is to eventually automate much more of this work, but we are not aiming to replace ships, they are still vital in this endeavour,” he said.
NTNU biologist Geir Johnsen works on a piece of equipment on a remotely operated underwater vehicle (ROV) that was also used on the Runde cruise.
Photo: Glaucia Fragoso, NTNU
The mystery remains
For her part, Fragoso sees the value of having an AUV like Harald to help pinpoint where she and other biologists should conduct more detailed sampling.
“Phytoplankton are just not easy to sample because they are constantly responding to an ever-changing environment,” she said.
“This gives us a lot of additional information about how phytoplankton occur in the water column.
And the more information we have, the better.”
As for the mystery of the birds on Runde, Fossum and Johnsen say scientists need to do more research over a longer period.
For example, the timing of food availability is very important for both fish and birds.
“Birds need to find food especially when their chicks are hatching, and the fish need to be the right species and size for seabirds to survive,” Johnsen says.
“Climate change and pollution are now rapidly altering conditions in the marine ecosystem, and we need to know more.”
“We took a snapshot of that area, which tells us something about the current ecosystem at that time,” Fossum added.
“But we’ll need to go back and get another snapshot to detect changes and identify potential causes to say something about why the birds are declining.”
Check out this video for a look at Runde and Harald the smart AUV’s brother Fridtjof in action :
The island of Runde, off the Norwegian coast near the town of Ålesund, is a well known paradise for seabirds, such as puffins.
But in recent years, seabird numbers here and in the North Atlantic have plummeted.
A team of researchers from NTNU and a smart autonomous underwater vehicle named Harald are on the hunt for clues as to why.
Unmanned Tools Track Underwater Sources Of Chemical And Biological Signals
As the world’s leader in designing and managing incentive competitions to solve humanity’s grand challenges, XPRIZE announced this week that the three finalist teams competing for the $1 million Bonus Prize sponsored by NOAA, in its Shell Ocean Discovery XPRIZE, have tested their technologies in Ponce, Puerto Rico.
The $1M NOAA Bonus Prize is part of the $7M Shell Ocean Discovery XPRIZE, a three-year global competition challenging teams to advance ocean technologies for rapid, unmanned and high-resolution ocean exploration.
To win the NOAA portion of the prize, competing teams need to demonstrate that their technology can identify and track, or “sniff out,” a specified object in the ocean by tracing a biological or chemical signal to its source.
The development of such technologies can help detect sources of pollution, identify hydrothermal vents and methane seeps, as well as track marine life for scientific research and conservation efforts.
The winning devices could also be used to identify and track signals from sunken vessels including planes, ships, or submarines in the future.
“The NOAA Bonus Prize teams are developing exciting, pioneering technologies that will help us uncover the mysteries of the ocean,” said Jyotika Virmani, Ph.D., Executive Director of the Shell Ocean Discovery XPRIZE.
“Having the opportunity to bring these teams, and their technologies, to beautiful Puerto Rico as originally planned is a win-win for everyone involved, and we were delighted to be able to work with our local partners.”
“XPRIZE represents the rapid scientific progress that can be gained through successful public-private partnerships,” said United States Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross.
“Moreover, this competition plays a dual role: potentially providing NOAA with invaluable tools to oversee the health of our oceans, while also demonstrating the resilience of local Puerto Rican communities in the aftermath of the tragic hurricanes of 2017.”
The final field test fulfills XPRIZE’s commitment to Puerto Rico, after initial plans to host its round one field tests for the Ocean Discovery XPRIZE were cancelled due to the destruction and devastation of Hurricanes Irma and Maria in September 2017.
Between January 20 to February 2, the finalist teams showcased their technologies by trying to detect and track a plume from two sources in a test zone established off the south coast of Ponce.
Advancing blue economy
“New technologies that can detect and trace chemical and biological signals in the ocean is another stunning achievement in expanding the blue economy,” said retired Navy Rear Adm. Timothy Gallaudet, Ph.D., acting under secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere at NOAA.
“This great public-private partnership supports NOAA’s critical mission to conserve and manage coastal and marine ecosystems and resources.”
For this final field test, XPRIZE partnered with the Government of Puerto Rico, the Port of Ponce Authority, the University of Puerto Rico at Mayagüez and its Department of Marine Science in La Parguera, the United States Coast Guard, the Caribbean Coastal Ocean Observing System (CARICOOS), Ponce Yacht and Fishing Club, and multiple other government, nonprofit and commercial organizations to provide additional support technology, vessels, and logistical assistance.
“We are committed to providing the infrastructure and logistics to support the demonstration of new and exciting technologies, and at the same time show the scientific world the many benefits Puerto Rico offers as an attractive destination for research and innovation,” said Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rosselló.
“Puerto Rico’s privileged location in the Caribbean makes it the ideal destination to carry out world-class research.”
The NOAA Bonus Prize finalists who opted to compete for this Prize were initially chosen by an independent judging panel of seven experts as semi-finalists for the Ocean Discovery XPRIZE.
Team Tampa Deep Sea Xplorers, one of the finalist teams competing in Puerto Rico for the $1M Bonus Prize sponsored by NOAA, in the $7M Shell Ocean Discovery XPRIZE
- BangaloreRobotics (Bangalore, Karnataka, India) – Led by Dr. Venkatesh Gurappa, this international team of students and enthusiasts from across the world share the common interest of making the world safe for human and other life forms through technology.
BangaloreRobotics’s goal is to create intelligent and autonomous robots that can replace human presence in hazardous areas.
The team is developing innovative and low-cost Underwater Swarm AUVs.
- Ocean Quest (San Jose, CA, United States) – Led by Danny Kim, Quest Institute has a long track record of taking on the most challenging endeavors in science and technology for the purposes of education and inspiring the next generation of leaders.
Quest is looking to innovate in the deep oceans arena to help foster not only new technology and techniques, but make ocean exploration and education accessible to the students around the world.
The team endeavors to design a marine STEM platform for students worldwide to enable project-based learning with new technology and techniques.
- Tampa Deep Sea X-plorers (Tampa, FL, United States) – Led by Edward Larson, the Tampa Deep-Sea X-plorers are an LLC registered in the state of Florida for the purpose of competing in the Shell Ocean Discovery XPRIZE.
The team seeks to harness the talents and resources of Central Florida's academic and business communities to design and build a viable solution to win the competition.
The team is using existing technology and side scanning sonar on multiple AUVs.
In addition to announcing its field test operations in Puerto Rico, XPRIZE also formed a new partnership with Ocean Infinity, the seabed survey and ocean exploration company that is credited for finding ARA San Juan, the Argentine Navy submarine which was lost on November 15, 2017.
The partnership will provide XPRIZE with the highest-resolution ocean seafloor maps of the competition area.
Combined with data from XPRIZE partner Fugro, these maps form the baseline against which teams’ technologies will be judged for the Grand Prize of the Ocean Discovery XPRIZE.
The winners of the NOAA Bonus XPRIZE as well as the Grand Prize winner(s) of the Shell Ocean Discovery XPRIZE will be announced by June 2019.
XPRIZE, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, is the global leader in designing and implementing innovative competition models to solve the world’s grandest challenges.
Active competitions include the Lunar XPRIZE, the $20M NRG COSIA Carbon XPRIZE, the $15M Global Learning XPRIZE, the $10M ANA Avatar XPRIZE, the $7M Shell Ocean Discovery XPRIZE, the $7M Barbara Bush Foundation Adult Literacy XPRIZE, and the $5M IBM Watson AI XPRIZE.
For more information, visit xprize.org.
‘People think that data is in the cloud, but it’s not. It’s in the ocean.’
The internet consists of tiny bits of code that move around the world, traveling along wires as thin as a strand of hair strung across the ocean floor.
The data zips from New York to Sydney, from Hong Kong to London, in the time it takes you to read this word.
Nearly 750,000 miles of cable already connect the continents to support our insatiable demand for communication and entertainment.
Companies have typically pooled their resources to collaborate on undersea cable projects, like a freeway for them all to share.
But now Google is going its own way, in a first-of-its-kind project connecting the United States to Chile, home to the company’s largest data center in Latin America.
“People think that data is in the cloud, but it’s not,” said Jayne Stowell, who oversees construction of Google’s undersea cable projects.
“It’s in the ocean.”
Getting it there is an exacting and time-intensive process.
A 456-foot ship named Durable will eventually deliver the cable to sea.
But first, the cable is assembled inside a sprawling factory a few hundred yards away, in Newington, N.H.
The factory, owned by the company SubCom, is filled with specialized machinery used to maintain tension in the wire and encase it in protective skin.
The cables begin as a cluster of strands of tiny threads of glass fibers.
Lasers propel data down the threads at nearly the speed of light, using fiber-optic technology.
After reaching land and connecting with an existing network, the data needed to read an email or open a web page makes its way onto a person’s device.
While most of us now largely experience the internet through Wi-Fi and phone data plans, those systems eventually link up with physical cables that swiftly carry the information across continents or across oceans.
In the manufacturing process, the cables move through high-speed mills the size of jet engines, wrapping the wire in a copper casing that carries electricity across the line to keep the data moving.
Depending on where the cable will be located, plastic, steel and tar are added later to help it withstand unpredictable ocean environments.
When finished, the cables will end up the size of a thick garden hose.
A year of planning goes into charting a cable route that avoids underwater hazards, but the cables still have to withstand heavy currents, rock slides, earthquakes and interference from fishing trawlers.
Each cable is expected to last up to 25 years.
A conveyor that staff members call “the Cable Highway” moves the cable directly into Durable, docked in the Piscataqua River.
The ship will carry over 4,000 miles of cable weighing about 3,500 metric tons when fully loaded.
Inside the ship, workers spool the cable into cavernous tanks.
One person walks the cable swiftly in a circle, as if laying out a massive garden hose, while others lie down to hold it in place to ensure it doesn’t snag or knot.
Even with teams working around the clock, it takes about four weeks before the ship is loaded up with enough cable to hit the open sea.
The first trans-Atlantic cable was completed in 1858 to connect the United States and Britain.
Queen Victoria commemorated the occasion with a message to President James Buchanan that took 16 hours to transmit.
While new wireless and satellite technologies have been invented in the decades since, cables remain the fastest, most efficient and least expensive way to send information across the ocean.
And it is still far from cheap: Google would not disclose the cost of its project to Chile, but experts say subsea projects cost up to $350 million, depending on the length of the cable.
In the modern era, telecommunications companies laid most of the cable, but over the past decade American tech giants started taking more control.
Google has backed at least 14 cables globally.
Amazon, Facebook and Microsoft have invested in others, connecting data centers in North America, South America, Asia, Europe and Africa, according to TeleGeography, a research firm.
Countries view the undersea cables as critical infrastructure and the projects have been flash points in geopolitical disputes.
Last year, Australia stepped in to block the Chinese technology giant Huawei from building a cable connecting Australia to the Solomon Islands, for fear it would give the Chinese government an entry point into its networks.
source : TeleGeography
Yann Durieux, a ship captain, said one of his most important responsibilities was keeping morale up among his crew during the weeks at sea.
Building the infrastructure of our digital world is a labor-intensive job.
With 53 bedrooms and 60 bathrooms, the Durable can hold up to 80 crew members.
The team splits into two 12-hour shifts.
Signs warn to be quiet in the hallways because somebody is always sleeping.
The ship will carry enough supplies to last at least 60 days: roughly 200 loaves of bread, 100 gallons of milk, 500 cartons of a dozen eggs, 800 pounds of beef, 1,200 pounds of chicken and 1,800 pounds of rice.
There’s also 300 rolls of paper towels, 500 rolls of toilet paper, 700 bars of soap and almost 600 pounds of laundry detergent.
No alcohol is allowed on board.
“I still get seasick,” said Walt Oswald, a technician who has been laying cables on ships for 20 years.
He sticks a small patch behind his ear to hold back the nausea.
“It’s not for everybody.”
Poor weather is inevitable.
Swells reach up to 20 feet, occasionally requiring the ship captain to order the subsea cable to be cut so the ship can seek safer waters.
When conditions improve, the ship returns, retrieving the cut cable that has been left attached to a floating buoy, then splicing it back together before continuing on.
Work on board is slow and plodding.
The ship, at sea for months at a time, moves about six miles per hour, as the cables are pulled from the giant basins out through openings at the back of the ship.
Closer to shore, where there’s more risk of damage, an underwater plow is used to bury the cable in the sea floor.
The Durable crew doesn’t expect the work to slow down anytime soon.
After the Latin America project, Google plans to build a new cable running from Virginia to France, set to be done by 2020.
The company has 13 data centers open around the world, with eight more under construction — all needed to power the trillions of Google searches made each year and the more than 400 hours of video uploaded to YouTube each minute.
“It really is management of a very complex multidimensional chess board,” said Ms. Stowell of Google, who wears an undersea cable as a necklace.
Demand for undersea cables will only grow as more businesses rely on cloud computing services.
And technology expected around the corner, like more powerful artificial intelligence and driverless cars, will all require fast data speeds as well.
Areas that didn’t have internet are now getting access, with the United Nations reporting that for the first time more than half the global population is now online.
“This is a huge part of the infrastructure that’s making that happen,” said Debbie Brask, the vice president at SubCom, who is managing the Google project.
“All of that data is going in the undersea cables.”
Tracy Edwards is the British sailor who made history in 1989 by skippering the first all-female crew in the Whitbread Round the World yacht race.
This film tells her story and those of her crew members, as they faced sexist squalls from male competitors, who as greying interviewees don’t look best pleased even now to be talking about when and how Tracy beat them.
There was also the press.
The Guardian’s Bob Fisher comes in for some criticism.
Edwards showed a staggering amount of leadership and energy on dry land, as well as at sea, assembling her crew and persuading the King of Jordan to provide vital sponsorship.
The boat was coyly called Maiden, and Alex Holmes’s film also shows how it punningly bore the banner “Maiden Great Britain”.
Their success was also a matter of patriotic pride.
The incredible, against-all-odds story of sailor Tracy Edwards, who skippered the first all-female international crew in the 1989 Whitbread Round the World Yacht Race.
Holmes recreates their adventure, using a lot of home movie footage of her childhood and early life – this appears to be the real thing, although sometimes I wondered if faux Super 8 reconstruction was being used – and also the TV coverage from 1989, with much toe-curling Partridgean commentary from Frank Bough and Fred Dinenage.
At one stage in the race, Edwards cunningly manipulated the paparazzi by getting the entire crew to wear glamorous swimming costumes on deck: they each look surreally like Princess Diana aboard Dodi Fayed’s yacht – but maybe that is simply the era.
Tracy Edwards experienced her “first real taste of sexism and
misogyny” when she sailed around the world with an all-female crew from
1989 to 1990 — but almost 30 years later, “Maiden” director Alex Holmes
doesn’t think much has changed.
There is something that the film doesn’t address as clearly it could have done.
In 1989, Edwards was asked if she was a feminist and she said no – and that she hated the word. It’s probably clear enough what she meant: she just wanted an equal shot at yachting success, just as the then prime minister Margaret Thatcher once wanted an equal shot at political success.
But, given that the present-day Edwards is interviewed at length, Holmes could perhaps have given her another chance to consider that question.
At all events, it pays due homage to Edwards as a courageous pioneer.
Nav gadgets will be Gah, Properly Screwed if you don't or can't update firmware
Older satnavs and such devices won't be able to use America's Global Positioning System properly after April 6 unless they've been suitably updated or designed to handle a looming epoch rollover.
GPS signals from satellites include a timestamp, needed in part to calculate one's location, that stores the week number using ten binary bits.
That means the week number can have 210 or 1,024 integer values, counting from zero to 1,023 in this case.
Every 1,024 weeks, or roughly every 20 years, the counter rolls over from 1,023 to zero.
The first Saturday in April will mark the end of the 1,024th week, after which the counter (WN = Week Number) will spill over from 1,023 to zero.
The last time the week number overflowed like this was in 1999, nearly two decades on from the first epoch in January 1980.
You can see where this is going.
If devices in use today are not designed or patched to handle this latest rollover, they will revert to an earlier year after that 1,024th week in April, causing attempts to calculate position to potentially fail.
System and navigation data could even be corrupted, we're warned.
"GPS devices with a poorly implemented GPS Time-to-UTC conversion algorithm may provide incorrect UTC following a week number rollover," US Homeland Security explained in its write-up (PDF) of the issue this week.
"Additionally, some GPS devices that calculate the week number value from a device-specific date rather than the start of the current GPS Time Epoch may provide incorrect UTC at some other device-specific date."
As the Reg reader who tipped us off to the shortcoming noted, this could be a significant headache for data centers that use GPS timing for synchronization.
"Decent vendors should have patches. But who has been thinking about this?" our tipster told us.
"This could be a low-key Y2K style bug all over again, but with companies doing less preparation."
Fortunately, devices on sale right now should be prepared for this rollover and handle it gracefully.
Uncle Sam's GPS nerve-center GPS.gov says (PDF) receivers that follow the ICD-200/IS-GPS-200 specification should be able to deal with the week number overflow.
This basically means newer receivers built after, say, 2010 should be fine, provided they follow the specs and notice the rollover.
The creation of the GPS which serves as a reference to the epoch is January 6, 1980 About 20 years later, on August 21, 1999, the first Week Number Rollover About 20 years later, on April 6, 2019, the next Week Number Rollover
To put it another way, if your gadget goes haywire in April, it's probably because of this.
If it works as normal: brilliant, it's not affected.
Consider yourself forewarned.
GPS.gov also notes that the new CNAV and MNAV message formats will use a 13-bit week number to solve the epoch migraine right up until the planet becomes uninhabitable via climate change or we all blow ourselves up.
Beware of the sudden profusion of sales of used GPS on ebay, which you will know with full knowledge of the facts that they will no longer work in a few days if that is not already the case.
Information from Furuno For impacted GPS, a simple cold start (after resetting the almanacs/ephemerides) may solve the problem as it can permanently crash the GPS. Note from Furuno : The date specified above is the date in which week number rollover occurs in our products listed above, and the date is independent from the one announced by the US Department of Homeland Security, namely, the 6th of April 2019, which is the date when GPS week number rollover occurs in the GPS as a system per se. The difference stems from different initial dates of counting week between GPS system and the GPS chipset used in our products.
For devices unprepared for the counter overflow, a firmware upgrade will be necessary to keep the things working properly.
GPS.gov recommends those unsure about their readiness for the turnover, particularly enterprises, should consult the manufacturer of their equipment to make sure they have the proper updates in place.