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The University of Southampton
Southampton Marine and Maritime Institute

SMMI/CMMI partnership: Exploring future collaborations and novel technologies for the creation of digital twins

Published: 4 July 2023
Diving a modern shipwreck
Collaborative monitoring of shallow coral communities and investigating their structural complexity

As the early summer rays were hitting Cypriot shores, an Engineering team from the SMMI visited the white beaches of Cyprus to work with the interdisciplinary team of the Cyprus Marine and Maritime Institute (CMMI). The CMMI was formed in 2019 under the MaRITeC-X EU Horizon 2020 Teaming grant and constitutes a major partner of the SMMI. Their research agenda aligns closely with that of the SMMI, reflecting themes across shipping, cultural heritage, archaeology, geography, and geology. The main aim of this multi-institutional collaboration is to develop and propose innovative methods and ideas for the creation of underwater digital twins as well as accurate digital maps of the underwater landscape. Throughout this visit various CMMI Research and Innovation centres, including the Marine and Coastal Ecosystems Centre (MarCEC), the Marine Robotics Innovation Centre (MaRIC) and the Marine Cultural Heritage Centre (MCHC), were involved.

Two lecturers presenting in a classroom
Presenting capabilities of underwater vehicles at Southampton

As part of this partnership, members of the SMMI including marine robotics engineer Samuel Simmons from the School of Engineering and maritime archaeologist Felix Pedrotti from the department of Archaeology, travelled to Cyprus to meet with members of the CMMI, including Dr Anna Demetriou (MCHC), Dr George Rossides (MaRIC), Simos Michael (MaRIC), Carlo Cernicchiaro (MaRIC), Michalis Mavros (MaRIC), Dr Louis Hadjioannou (MarCEC), Dr Manos Moraitis (MarCEC) and Neophytos Agrotis (MarCEC).

This collaboration was driven by three main objectives. The first was to propose, plan and develop intelligent mobile mapping capabilities along the Cypriot coast for marine conservation, archaeological dissemination, and infrastructure inspection. The second objective was to develop of novel methodologies to monitor shallow coral communities and investigate their structural complexity. Lastly, the collaboration focused on the development and testing of ROVs for the collection of digital photorealistic datasets, used to provide situational awareness underwater, and to promote harbour (and with it national) safety.

Researchers testing a ROV in a marina
Developing and testing ROVs for the collection of 3D datasets

During this extensive collaboration, the SMMI was able to support the growth of their Cypriot partner and aid in capacity building, addressing ocean literacy and proposing new methodologies for the generation of ocean knowledge and the development of ocean safety. While this visit was just one of many steps in the development of digital twins in Cyprus and new methodologies for the mapping of the seafloor, this collaboration is part of the ongoing capacity building taking place across multiple disciplines. This will help both the SMMI and the CMMI to develop sustainable methods for the protection and monitoring of cultural heritage, marine biology, and public safety.

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