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62 unmanned systems inside October/November 2016 MARINE INNOVATION This fall the Schmidt Ocean Institute is sailing its ship the R/V FALKOR FROM DARWIN, AUSTRALIA TO GUAM in an effort to better understand the sea surface microlayer— the bound- ary layer between the ocean and atmosphere. The science team will use a collection of robotic platforms, including autonomous aerial vehicles and remotely controlled surface vessels, to search for trace elements and organic compounds at this boundary and characterize sea surfaces. Among the things the scientists are looking for are complex microbial communities inhabiting those surfaces. The study has the potential to impact the science of marine biogeo- chemistry and climate-related processes at a global scale. AUTONOMOUS TECH USED TO STUDY SEA'S MICROLAYER away from it, right? So the sea surface's normal wave field is not there," McGillivary explained. "Then some distance away, at the edge of the front, all the waves pile up. So you have an area of piled up waves on one side and no waves on the other side—so you see a big difference in the surface wave field— at the centimeter scale to even bigger waves—and you can really see that." Using the High Ground The capabilities of multi-domain systems could be used to search out naval mines f loating on, or hiding beneath, the ocean's surface. Potential commercial applications include the inspection of ship hulls and of infrastructure anchored in the water. Those responsible for maintaining bridges, oil and gas platforms and wind farms should find it more efficient to be able to oper- ate simultaneously above and below the waves. "You'll need aerial robots to inspect above the water, Gundersen said, "and then you'll need the surface and underwater vehicles to inspect from the waterline down to wherever the base is, if it's anchored to the bottom or built into the seabed." Research is underway on automated recov- ery and recharging, he said, adding that the real challenge is landing either the drone or the autonomous underwater vehicles (AUV) on a vessel as it is moving in the water. "Launching them is the easy part," Gundersen said. There are automated drone docking systems, he said, but they are for a UAS returning to a set ground station "so it knows exactly where it is." "It's different with a boat because obviously it's moving," he said. "It's also not just moving in a 2-D space, it's heaving right? It's also mov- ing vertically. So the challenge is with UAVs, in general, landing them on a moving object." The same is true for underwater vehicles re- turning to a WAM-V, he added, unless they are using a tether. Tethers supply power continu- ously so docking to a charger is unnecessary. Remotely operated vehciles are an "obvious first step before AUVs," Gundersen said. Protecting Porpoises, Fisheries The ability of UAS to survey wide areas and report back is playing a key role in saving the last of the Vaquita, a petite porpoise being dec- imated by the gill nets of poachers trying to catch another endangered creature, the totoa- ba. Both type of fish have been driven to near Photos courtesy of Schmidt Ocean Institute and NOAA "YOU CAN IMAGINE A WAM-V that can deploy both the aerial and underwater assets — bring them back, recharge them and then send them out again." Mark Gundersen, president and CEO, Marine Advanced Research The Schmidt Ocean Institute's research vessel Falkor.