Robot submarines set to map and monitor seas around UK

Two projects investigating the use of robot submarines to map and monitor the seas around Britain have received £720,000 in funding.

The research programmes, led by the UK’s National Oceanography Centre (NOC), have been contracted by the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).

According to NOC, the projects will focus on the use and capabilities of the country’s autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) and sea glider fleet, generating data that will guide the future use of these submersibles to investigate the marine environment.

The first project, ‘Investigating the feasibility of utilising AUV and glider technology for mapping and monitoring of the UK MPA [marine protected area] network’, runs from March to September 2013 and is funded as part of the Defra Marine Biodiversity Research and Development programme. 

The primary aim of the £370,000 project is to review the capacity and capabilities of the UK AUV and glider fleet and to provide case studies illustrating how data collected with these instruments can be used to support policy requirements, such as the mapping and monitoring of MPAs. It is led by NOC in partnership with the British Geological Survey (BGS) and the Scottish Association for Marine Science (SAMS).

The second project — ‘Novel AUV and glider deployments to inform future MPA and MSFD [Marine Strategy Framework Directive] monitoring strategy in UK shelf waters’ — will begin in late 2012 with field work in 2013 and 2014.  

This £350,000 project is funded as part of the Defra Strategic Evidence and Partnerships Fund (SEPF) and will support new AUV and glider data collection in UK waters in 2013 and 2014. 

It will ensure that innovative science undertaken within NERC national capability and research programmes will have maximum impact for policy drivers such as the MSFD.

Both projects are led by Dr Russell Wynn, head of marine geoscience at NOC and a co-ordinator of the UK Marine Environmental Mapping Programme (MAREMAP).