We are currently on a cruise deploying multiple, coordinated autonomous systems at Scott Reef on the Australian North West Shelf, approximately 400km north of Broome, WA. These deployments are seeking advance two related and complementary threads in oceanographic robotics:
- robotic force-multiplication of research vessels using coordinated and complementary vehicles, and
- untended, precisely navigated groups of small long-range benthic imaging robots.
This expedition has brought together a group of international PIs who have significant experience and resources in marine robotics field operations as well as a decade-long history of productive collaboration. Time on the Schmidt Ocean Institution vessel R/V Falkor has provided the opportunity to leverage our independent research programs into a robotic seafloor observing system of unprecedented scale and heterogeneity. The fielded system comprise autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs), a glider, a Lagrangian imaging float and an autonomous surface vessels (ASV), all working collectively to deliver a comprehensive synoptic view of the benthos, seafloor structure, and relevant local oceanography.
In collaboration with the Ocean Perception Laboratory at the Institute of Industrial Science (IIS) at the University of Tokyo, we organised a marine imaging workshop at JAMSTEC on March 12th, 2015. The main aim of the workshop was to talk about the scientific rationale and the data collected during two cruises completed in 2014 in Japanese coastal waters. These cruises resulted in large scale, 3D visual maps of the seafloor to help interpret the distribution of seafloor habitats in the Tōhoku region, and in hydrothermal vent fields in the Okinawa trough. Talks focused the interpretation of the data and the distribution of various benthic organisms.
This trip is part of of the project ‘Understanding Marine Habitats off Tōhoku Using Underwater Robots’ and is supported by the Commonwealth through the Australia-Japan Foundation, which is part of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
The IMOS AUV group have been working with the University of Tasmania aboard the AMC vessel RV Bluefin to survey sites within the Commonwealth Marine Reserve at Maatsuyker Island on the South West tip of Tasmania. After mobilising at Beauty Point, we had to wait out some bad weather, with strong winds and rough seas forecast over the weekend. Monday morning dawned with relatively calm conditions so we headed out to the site to deploy the vehicle. After a six hour mission we recovered the vehicle as the seas began to build. The forecast for the rest of the week is pretty dire, with 7-10m swell predicted in the area so we have had to call it a day. We will pick up a few additional sites around Bruney Island on the way back to Hobart.
Despite the relatively short time on site, we were able to collect a large number of seafloor images with the reserve. A few sample images showing dense brittle stars, rock lobsters, sponge gardens and soft corals appear below.