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The University of Southampton

Passive underwater robotics could unravel mysteries of the ocean floor

Published: 18 December 2020
Miguel Massot Campos

An underwater robotic camera developed in an engineering collaboration including the University of Southampton could hold the key to mapping the world’s ocean floors at scale.

Dr Miguel Massot-Campos from the Maritime Engineering Group is working on the Driftcam project, an ultra-low cost system that has no means of self-propulsion and instead drifts with the underwater currents whilst controlling its depth.

The aim of Driftcam is to scale-up current capabilities to map the ocean floor, enabling long-term deployments of multiple drifters without the need of expert users.

Miguel, a Research Fellow in Underwater Robotics, says: “Underwater exploration is something that has not been done on a massive scale. We know very little about the life at the bottom of the sea, and how environments work down there.

“Mapping the sea floor using current methods would take decades and isn’t economically viable, so we’re looking for more sustainable ways that require less human interaction.”

The research team are collaborating with industry partners from Sonardyne and are commercialising software called Location Guided Autoencoder, which can classify sea floor images using artificial intelligence.

Miguel is one of four Early Career Researchers who are currently seconded part-time to the University’s Research and Innovation Services department as a Business and Commercialisation Fellows. Through this fellowship, Miguel is developing a Proof of Concept and a draft licence for the software.

Read the full article in the latest edition of Re:action , the University’s research and enterprise magazine.

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