Fleet of oceanic robots, buoys, ready to deploy


What has been described as the first multi-million pound fleet of innovative and interconnected marine technology is expected to be deployed off Plymouth, UK soon, according to Plymouth Marine Laboratory, a marine research institute.

An 8.5-meter-high stand-alone data buoy featuring an array of on-board sensors will soon be deployed at sea as part of Smart Sound Plymouth’s plan to create a leading proving ground for high-end marine innovation. technology.

“Smart Sound Plymouth stretches over 1,000 km2 of ocean, from sheltered bays to hostile offshore waters, providing space for the development and demonstration of cutting-edge products and services for the marine industry. It is also home to the prestigious Western Channel Observatory, where a long-term dataset, remote sensing and ecosystem modeling inform the world’s leading science, ”said the Plymouth Marine Laboratory.

The new buoy, which will be deployed by the Plymouth Marine Laboratory (PML) with support from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), offers a unique capability in the UK thanks to its autonomous water column profiling system, PML said.

“The profiler will provide invaluable high-resolution data to scientists working at the Western Channel Observatory. Where previous buoy systems only measured in surface waters, the new profiled data sets will offer an unprecedented understanding of this dynamic area and its complex marine ecosystem. The advanced platform is built by Mobilis and supplied by Hydrosphere UK, ”added PML.

Non-screwed surface vessel – AutoNautCredit: AutoNaut

Along with the buoy, Smart Sound’s ocean robot fleet includes the recently named PML Pioneer, a five-meter AutoNaut unmanned surface vessel powered by wave motion and powered by three hundred watt solar panels.

“The PML Pioneer, funded by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), is one of only two of its kind in the UK and will be the only one regularly deployed in UK waters. The integrated science payload is the most advanced to be deployed from an AutoNaut and includes advanced chemical sensors, as well as a photosynthetic efficiency and flow sensor, ”said PML.

PML said it has also purchased four autonomous underwater robots from ecoSUB robotics, with funding from NERC.

“Their sophisticated sensors are designed to deliver crucial scientific data and the UK’s largest next-generation submarine fleet is uniquely integrated through acoustic underwater communications. This means that the submarines will be able to perform synchronized surveys on multiple vehicles with underwater positioning and can communicate with the PML Pioneer, ”added PML.

“Plymouth’s new fleet is unique in its field thanks to ‘Smart Sound Connect’, a £ 1.8million investment to provide an overwater high-speed communications network through which ships and the equipment will be able to communicate with each other. This advanced 5G technology private marine network will stretch for a mile south of Plymouth Sound and cover the port of Plymouth, ”added PML.

Private maritime broadband network

Meanwhile, PML has stated that “Smart Sound Connect – Offshore” will provide high speed communications throughout the extent of Smart Sound, some 20 miles south of Plymouth.

“This network will be a private marine broadband network, offering seamless integration into the 5G network. Smart Sound Connect is funded by the Heart of the South West LEP and provided by the Marine Business Technology Center in Plymouth. . ” PML said.

“Smart Sound Digital” will leverage the wealth of data transmitted in real time through this advanced communication system, to provide a “digital twin” of Smart Sound, ”added PML.

“This simulation of the natural environment, provided by a large consortium of national partners led by PML and the Plymouth City Council, will have many use cases, including advancing marine self-reliance with a particular focus on integration, certification and regulation of ports. This will also allow partners to develop smart port technologies and connect to smart cities, providing an integrated smart environment, ”added PML.

Smart Sound Plymouth is led by PML and provided by a wide range of partners in the Future Autonomous at Sea Technologies (FAST) cluster, which has more than thirty members in industry, academia and government collaborating to make Smart Sound unique, innovative and accessible. to all.

Dr James Fishwick, Head of Smart Sound Plymouth and Head of Operations and Technology, Western Channel Observatory, said: “These are incredibly exciting times for PML and Smart Sound. The combination of the new data buoy and autonomous vehicles will give us unparalleled capabilities for this type of ocean observation. It is a great example of technology and innovation in the UK, an achievement for Plymouth as a hub for marine research and an opportunity to show how we can monitor the environment in a net zero future.


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