The backdrop could not have been any better: a sheltered harbour, light breeze and the warmth of an early summer morning.
The Gazette recently took a road trip to the Holyrood Marine Base to learn more about a research project involving collaborators from around the world.
The team was busy putting the Memorial Explorer – the university’s recently recommissioned autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) – through its paces with a series of sea trials and tests.
The team members were receiving valuable hands-on training from the B.C.-based company International Submarine Engineering Ltd., manufacturers of the AUV, and Fugro GeoSurveys Inc., a St. John’s company providing marine services ranging from seafloor mapping to geological/seismic and hydrographic surveys.
The Explorer has been utilized in research projects ranging from environmental monitoring to seabed imaging and vehicle dynamics experiments.
The latest testing and training is part of a larger project aimed at enhancing the capability of Canada’s autonomous marine robotics to support oil spill response, led by Dr. Neil Bose, vice-president (research), and a group of international collaborators.
Those partners include ISE, Fugro GeoSurveys, Dalhousie University, the University of Tasmania in Australia, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, as well as the U.S.-based Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
1/ On display
2/ Pre-dive checks
3/ Prep work
4/ Ready to go
5/ Into the water
6/ Preparing to power up
7/ Operations centre
8/ Mission mode
9/ Team effort
10/ Day on the water
“This testing brings us an opportunity to obtain hands-on experience from the manufacturer from basic vehicle operations to using the back seat driver for adaptive missions, which will enable the vehicle to change its path autonomously based on some triggers such as sensor readings,” said Dr. Bo Thanyamanta, a research associate with the project and a Memorial alumna.
She and the team spent nearly two weeks in Holyrood, manoeuvring the AUV and gaining knowledge about its communication system and the importance of data logging.
“These are part of the experiences that we need that will get us ready for our own oil plume delineation mission planned for summer 2020,” noted Dr. Thanyamanta. “That mission is to develop the Explorer’s capabilities to delineate oil spill plumes using adaptive mission planning, which can be used to support oil spill response efforts.”
The 2020 mission is part of Jimin Hwang’s PhD research. Ms. Hwang, who is from the University of Tasmania, is completing her research under the co-supervision of Dr. Bose at Memorial.
“I’ve learned a lot of practical aspects of operating the vehicle in the ocean,” she told the Gazette.
“Experience I gained here will be used for my PhD experiments responding to oil spills. My plans are to test my adaptive vehicle control missions by testing in natural oil seeps either on the west coast of Newfoundland or in Baffin Bay.”
“This particular AUV is an underwater workhorse that is on a track to complete rejuvenation,” added Dr. Bose.