Oceanids newsletter - June 2020

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June 2020

Welcome to the Oceanids newsletter, which provides a round-up of news from the programme and updates on progress and developments over the last 12 months.

ALR1500 in Portland Harbour

ALR1500 completes Harbour Acceptance Trials

The latest Autosub Long Range (ALR) vehicle being developed under the Oceanids programme successfully completed its first live trials in the waters of Portland Harbour in Dorset, in May last year.

The new autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV), ALR1500 – named for the 1500m depth it can achieve – passed its first major test in Portland Harbour with flying colours, successfully demonstrating its integration with the unified web-based Command and Control (C2) software platform that has been developed in parallel by the NOC in partnership with the Scottish Association for Marine Science. These trials demonstrated that the vehicle’s hardware and software systems are communicating effectively with each other, which provides a solid platform as increasingly advanced features are introduced.

Bottlenose dolphin in Portland Harbour

The harbour acceptance trials weren't just of interest to engineers and scientists. The serious business of testing pioneering ocean robots was irresistible for one keen observer – a bottlenose dolphin paid a visit and showed some interest in this new addition to the harbour’s waters.

ALR1500 commissioning success at Loch Ness

Following the Portland trials, ALR1500’s next test was in the waters of Loch Ness, Scotland where two of the three new vehicles (ALR5 and ALR6) went through their first round of commissioning trials. The vehicles carried out a range of test missions of increasing complexity across three weeks in July and August 2019 to test the vehicle’s enhanced functionality, including Terrain Aided Navigation and environmental profiling capabilities.
ALR6 recovery at Loch Ness, July 2019

Oceanids sensors trials 

A multidisciplinary team from the NOC returned to Loch Ness in November / December 2019 to conduct trials of the next generation of marine sensors and autonomous underwater vehicles.

Three ALR vehicles were unleashed in the Loch in one of the NOC’s largest single deployments of Autosubs, to deliver field tests of the new CarCASS and AutoNuts sensor payloads and trial their integration with the subs.

The Loch Ness trials saw a total of 10 new sensors put through their paces. Nine of these were NOC-developed ‘lab-on-chip’ devices, alongside one third-party electrochemical pH sensor.

Oceanids_ sensors_trials_2019

Autosub 2KUI unveiled at MATS

The Oceanids programme was highlighted at last year’s Marine Autonomy and Technology Showcase (MATS), hosted at the NOC in Southampton in November, with a presentation on the new Autosub 2000 Under Ice (A2KUI) delivered by project lead Matthew Kingsland (pictured below).

MATS returns in November, and we'll be providing further updates on Oceanids at the event.

Matt Kingsland - A2KUI

Oceanids in the media

Oceanids - ECO Magazine

The latest edition of ECO Magazine features a four-page article focusing on the progress to date of the Oceanids programme.

See the article here (opens ECO Magazine online)

A2KUI - UT3 magazine

Earlier this year, UT3 magazine covered the development of Autosub 2KUI.

Read the article here (opens UT3 magazine online - see pages 60-63)

Command and Control (C2)

C2 screen

C2 - the integrated command, control and data management infrastructure for over-the-horizon operation of MAS - is currently being used by the Royal Navy as part of Project Hecla. The platform has been deployed to manage the Navy's submarine glider trials on the Dstl-funded operation currently going ahead in the North Atlantic.

Read more on the Royal Navy's website

Frontiers in Marine Science published a paper on Oceanids C2 this month. 

Read the full article here

About Oceanids

Oceanids is a £16 million Marine Autonomous Systems (MAS) development programme funded by the UK Government’s Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund and being delivered and led by the National Oceanography Centre (NOC) in partnership with the Scottish Association for Marine Science, University of Exeter, University of Southampton, and industry partners, which aims to reinforce the UK’s position as a global leader in marine science and technology.

The programme draws upon engineering and science expertise from across a wide range of UK academic, industry and government organisations. The primary aim is to develop enhanced data collection and delivery capability for the UK marine science community, particularly in unexplored and technologically challenging under-ice and deep-ocean environments.

Oceanids will deliver two new autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) classes: three 1500m depth-rated Autosub Long Range vehicles (ALR1500) that will have longer endurance and greater payload capacity compared to the current vehicles; and a 2000m depth-rated Autosub capable of carrying high-power sensors and operating under ice (Autosub2KUI). The programme will also deliver enhanced 'command-and-control' (C2) and data management systems for efficient MAS fleet operations, and a range of new sensors to maximise science output from the new platforms. There will also be a series of sea trials to ensure the new capabilities are ready for science deployments anywhere in the ocean. Further details on the programme can be found at:



ALR1500 in the workshop


Focus on: BioCam

BioCam – developed by the University of Southampton under the Oceanids programme – is a unique 3D visual mapping system based upon a stereo camera and laser scanner which obtains highly detailed colour images and topographical measurements of the seafloor, such as the cover of live cold-water coral within marine protected areas. This sensor has been designed to integrate with the Autosub 6000, Autosub Long Range and remotely operated vehicle (ROV) Isis underwater platforms operated by the NOC.

BioCam played a key role in the recent expedition on board RRS Discovery to the Darwin Mounds off the coast of Scotland, where it was deployed on the NOC’s Autosub 6000 and captured some striking imagery such as the whale carcass (below).

BioCam image - whale carcass



The NOC becomes independent

Following a joint meeting between the NOC, the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) and Government representatives on 17 September 2019, it was confirmed that the NOC will become a legally independent self-governing organisation from 1 November 2019 – a charitable Company Limited by Guarantee with a trading subsidiary for undertaking work of a more commercial nature.

The NOC has pursued becoming a legally separate entity from its previous embedding within NERC/UKRI to equip the Centre with the freedoms it needs to develop as a world-class research institution - such as being able to grow the business and keep financial reserves to reinvest in promising areas of science, and to manage the risks of year-to-year variations in funding.

NOCS aerial view


New Chief Scientist for MARS

Prof Russell Wynn, who has been Chief Scientist of National Marine Facilities-Marine Autonomous and Robotic Systems (NMF-MARS) since 2013, has left the NOC after a 20-year career to pursue new opportunities in wildlife conservation and eco-tourism.

Dr Matthew Palmer, based at the NOC's Liverpool site, takes over as MARS Chief Scientist, and brings a wealth of experience in co-ordinating marine robotics field programmes in UK and international waters. Matthew will be a key communications node between NMF-MARS engineers and the marine robotics end-user community, which spans the research, government and industry sectors. 


National Marine Equipment Pool

The National Marine Equipment Pool (NMEP) is the largest centralised marine scientific equipment pool in Europe with a diverse range of scientific instruments and equipment capable of sampling from the sea surface to the deep ocean. 

Equipment within the NMEP is available for use by the marine science community. Contact us to find out about future use of ALR1500 and other Oceanids technology, or to discuss commercial hire of our instruments and vehicles.

RRS Discovery and fleet



Dr Maaten Furlong (Head, NMF-MARS)

Dr Alex Phillips (Head, NMF-MARS Development)

Dr Kristian Thaller (Oceanids Programme Manager)

Damian Cook (Oceanids Senior Communications Officer)