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‘Underwater workhorse’

International team preps Memorial Explorer for sea trials and tests

Research

By Jeff Green

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 research team members include from left (back row): John Slade, Fugro; Nathan Ehrenholz, International Submarine Engineering Limited; Andrew Walsh, Fugro; Eric Davis, Marine Institute; Craig Bulger, Marine Institute and CREAIT Network; Eugene Antle, Marine Institute. From left (front row): Ginelle Nazareth, International Submarine Engineering Limited; Gina Miller, CREAIT Network’s Autonomous Underwater Vehicles node; Dr. Neil Bose, Memorial; Yaomei Wang, Memorial; Jimin Hwang, University of Tasmania; and Dr. Bo Thanyamanta, Memorial.
The research team members include from left (back row) are John Slade, Nathan Ehrenholz, Andrew Walsh, Eric Davis, Craig Bulger; and Eugene Antle. From left (front row) are Ginelle Nazareth, Gina Miller, Dr. Neil Bose, Yaomei Wang, Jimin Hwang and Dr. Bo Thanyamanta.
Photo: Rich Blenkinsopp

Practical research

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

The Memorial Explorer proudly on display. Its manufacturer, International Submarine Engineering Limited, recently recommissioned the AUV.

Photo: Rich Blenkinsopp

2/ Pre-dive checks

Dr. Bo Thanyamanta, a Memorial research associate and alumna, conducts pre-dive checks of the AUV at the Holyrood Marine Base.

Photo: Rich Blenkinsopp

3/ Prep work

From left, Craig Bulger, project engineer with the Centre of Applied Ocean Technology at the Holyrood Marine Base and the CREAIT Network’s Autonomous Underwater Vehicles node, and Andrew Walsh, electronics technologist at Fugro, re-fasten the main hatch of the AUV.

Photo: Rich Blenkinsopp

4/ Ready to go

The D. Cartwright tied up at the dock at the Holyrood Marine Base. The research team spent time aboard the boat during their trials and testing.

Photo: Rich Blenkinsopp

5/ Into the water

The AUV is carefully launched into the harbour.

Photo: Rich Blenkinsopp

6/ Preparing to power up

Craig Bulger, project engineer with the Centre of Applied Ocean Technology at the Holyrood Marine Base and the CREAIT Network’s Autonomous Underwater Vehicles node and John Slade, marine electronics technologist with Fugro, prepare to power up the AUV.

Photo: Rich Blenkinsopp

7/ Operations centre

Ginelle Nazareth of the B.C.-based company International Submarine Engineering Ltd. in the AUV operations centre.

Photo: Rich Blenkinsopp

8/ Mission mode

The AUV being piloted at the surface prior to entering mission mode.

Photo: Rich Blenkinsopp

9/ Team effort

From left are Ginelle Nazareth, International Submarine Engineering Ltd.; Gina Miller, CREAIT Network’s Autonomous Underwater Vehicles node; Jimin Hwang, University of Tasmania; and Dr. Neil Bose, Memorial, aboard the D. Cartwright.

Photo: Rich Blenkinsopp

10/ Day on the water

The research team aboard the D. Cartwright heads out into the harbour for a day on the water.

Photo: Rich Blenkinsopp

‘Hands-on training’

“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.


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