National Institute for Oceanography
Dona Paula-Goa 403 004, India.
Autonomous vehicles and instrumentation for oceanography
To develop an autonomous technology such as small AUV (Autonomous Underwater Vehicle), AVP (Autonomous Vertical Profiler) and ASV (Autonomous Surface Vechicle) to acquire data from onboard sensors to sense physical, biological and chemical properties in the ocean, lakes, estuaries, rivers and dams without disturbing the environment data can be acquired.
Major advances in the early years of oceanography were marked by great innovation, with oceanographers and engineers working in tandem to design special-purpose equipment for measurements that were not possible with off-the-shelf items. Recent advances in computers, software, new materials, miniaturization of sensors, and the advances in the aerospace, semi-conductor & communication industries present another opportunity to accelerate the development of ocean science, since technology is at the point where it can drive and accelerate science programs, opening up possibilities not available earlier to advance our knowledge of the seas.
The Marine Instrumentation Division at the NIO, Goa has been involved over the last two decades in the development of autonomous instrumentation for Oceanography and has developed core competence in-
• Autonomous Surface Vehicle (ASV)
• Autonomous Underwater vehicle (AUV)
• Autonomous Vertical Profiler (AVP)
Proof-of-concepts instruments have been demonstrated on the electromagnetic technique of current measurement, upward pointing acoustic beams to determine surface waves, and an ultra-high scanning spectral radiometer,(Desa and Desa 1991) that was developed under a UNDP Country Programme.
Marine Robotics at Marine Instrumentation Division
Marine Robotics in India is still in its infancy. A first step is being taken at NIO, Goa with the development of a small AUV for coastal waters that requires minimal ship support. Operational AUVs on unescorted missions will be the future technology used in Oceanography. However, this needs to be coupled to science programs that will advance our understanding of the seas around India in ways not conceived before. We are lead to the concept of a “well sampled ocean” – an observation network that continuously observes physical, chemical and biological variables in time and space of a single ecosystem using small AUVS, gliders, ARGO floats., and airborne vehicles for the coastal zone.
Applications of Robot Platforms (AUV & ASV )
Most researchers, program managers, and stakeholders are aware that the small AUV has vast potential uses in the Oceanographic Science Community, and in the Environmental Monitoring of coastal waters.
The small AUV development will have the technology fall-outs –
• Map the chlorophyll distribution of surface coastal waters, and to use this data to validate India's Ocean Color Satellite pixel data. This will also provide important knowledge on biodiversity abundance of phytoplankton in our waters
• Rapid Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) small AUV surveys involving bathymetry, effluent discharge from coastal factories, and pollution assessment. This has implications in e-governance
• Monitoring of Coral reefs in Indian Waters using a digital video camera, UV light and temperature as sensors. Similar approaches can be used in photographing ancient marine Archaeological Sites in India
• New sensors – examples of bioluminescence, flow cytometers , mass spectrometers have been interfaced to AUV systems by researchers elsewhere, and this has led to discoveries of marine life that would be very difficult to carry out from large research vessels
Major Infrastructural Facilities:
• Computers for the development of software
• CAD facilities for mechanical design
• Test equipment for temperature control
• Workshop to turn out small hardware items
• Space Applications Center, Ahmedabad
• Oceanographic Institutions in India and abroad
• Municipal Corporations in coastal states of India
• Navy [NSTL] and defense laboratories [DRDO]
• Archaeological departments