A consortium led by researchers from the University of Southampton IT Innovation Centre, UK has developed unmanned autonomous vehicles (UAVs) to scan the ocean and collect environmental information to manage one of Europe’s busiest ports.

Claimed to be low cost, the on-demand UAVs will operate on intelligent data analytics to provide the Port of Leixões, Portugal with environmental impacts.

The UAVs, inter-connected, will relay observations to a geo-spatial environmental data fusion platform that creates data for marine risk analysis, facilitating a rapid response impact analysis.

“Marine industry stakeholders will collaborate to create a new data value chain.”

The trial has been conducted as a part of the research by the European Commission-funded Sunrise Exposures project.

University of Southampton IT Innovation Centre technical director Michael Boniface said: "Marine industry stakeholders will collaborate to create a new data value chain that builds on low-cost drones and advanced data analytics to seamlessly connect surveyors, marine analysts and authorities.

"These drones are small enough to be launched by one person and cost less than €100,000 allowing them to be preconfigured for marine applications, such as scour and sediment transport analysis.

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"By combining the drones with internet connectivity, geospatial data fusion, and linked data access, marine analysts will have the information they need for assessing threats such as marine accidents, extreme weather events and periodic degradation."

According to Marine Southeast CEO Jonathan Williams, the technology can be used on a range of operations, including marine aquaculture and offshore windfarms.

The research consortium has created an Exposures Interest Group, which is aimed at educating potential end-users on the technology to ensure an optimal use of it.

The usage of the underwater technology to create a geospatial data management platform to assess marine environmental processes and risks has been facilitated by a collaborative effort by the consortium composed of University of Southampton IT Innovation Centre, UK; Marine Southeast, UK; and SUNRISE project partners, the Laboratório de Sistemas e Tecnologia Subaquática from University of Porto, Portugal.

Image: Sunrise Exposures UAVs. Photo: courtesy of University of Southampton.