Ocean’s Health at stake

The ocean is of utmost importance in the earth’s ecosystem. Marine waters contain some of the most biologically diverse ecosystems on the planet. Oceans and seas are directly linked to global/regional climate, weather, ecosystems, living resources, and biodiversity. A healthy ocean is essential for our survival and wellbeing.

Three-quarters of the world’s mega-cities are by the sea, and 40% of the global population lives within 100 km of the coast. 90% of world trade is transported by sea, and there is increasing development pressure in coastal waters for aquaculture, tourism, and renewable energy.

Physical and biogeochemical processes in the sea are not understood well enough.At the moment, data collected by conventional methods (i.e. ship & moorings) are scarcely distributed both in time and space and do not meet the basic requirements posed by these challenges.

Better understanding of physical, biogeochemical, and biological processes in the ocean improves our capacities to predict and address climate change challenges. Gaining ocean knowledge follows this steps :

While the outline of this chain is simple, the steps are complex to implement and execute. Having a complete and high quality data value chain is a crucial challenge. Marine Robotics are the best available tools that not only provide better time and space scales of observation but also implement greener solutions!

A multiplatform approach for ocean observing.

Marine Robotics : a wide variety of technologies

Developed in the 1980s and 1990s, underwater gliders were designed to be small, intelligent, mobile, and affordable, at a time when ocean observation relied mainly on expensive and punctual expeditions using research vessels.

Nowadays, underwater gliders have reached a mature state and are routinely operated by many institutes and agencies. Typically, gliders profile from the surface to the seabed and back. A cycle may last between half an hour to six hours, as the glider travels at speeds around 0,5 knots – even in extreme weather conditions. Gliders can stay at sea multiple months. In special cases, they can even be deployed for a year with a survey track extending over thousands of miles.

Marine robots are widely used for ocean observation, marine research, and increasingly by private companies. The demand is growing on par with the rapid evolution of marine robotics and sensing technologies. More recently, Autonomous Surface Vehicles (ASVs) have started to boom and complement Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUVs) with surface measurements. 

Focus on glider : an observation champion

Within the observational context, underwater gliders occupy a unique place. Developed in the 1980s and 1990s, underwater gliders were designed to be small, intelligent, mobile and affordable.

Underwater gliders have reached a mature state and are routinely operated by many institutes and agencies. They offer persistent fine resolution observations of the water properties along the coast and in the open ocean.

Typically, gliders profile from the surface to the seabed and back during a cycle that last between half an hour to six hours. They travel at speeds around 0,5 knots, even in extreme weather conditions. Deployments of 3-6 months are routine. They can even be deployed for a year with a survey track extending over thousands of miles.

Interest in gliders primarily resides in their payload. Sensors on gliders measure various variables.

Physical variables :

Chemical variables :

Because the ocean observing value chain is not executed by multiple entities and organizations, its success relies on the coalescence of various subprocesses. Therefore, it is of critical importance that coordination activities are established. A coordinated research institute can facilitate the optimisation of their operation, and thus, further contribute to the ocean observing value chain.

The glider community successfully launched OceanGliders, a program whose objective is to  “monitor the global glider activity, share the requirements, efforts and scientific knowledge needed for glider data collection and support the dissemination of glider data in global databases, in real-time and delayed mode, for a wider community.”

MAS can go places research vessels can’t access. They can observe under the ice and through storms. Hence, its data improves hurricane forecast and has led to major results in weather forecasting, climatology, and ocean state estimates.

Ocean observation data is also useful to a wide variety of stakeholders such as fisheries, pollution agencies, search and rescue, industry and so on. Services have already been developed and demonstrated. Yet, they are not often used. GROOM II addresses this issue and explores new applications of MAS. Lastly, the consortium takes into consideration developments in miniaturized sensor systems and artificial intelligence as well as emerging markets.