Oceanresearch with USB 3.0 industrial cameras from IDS
The oceans play a central role in global climate change on our planet. Marine organisms and the structure of their communities in the water column as well as on or in the seabed provide us with important information on future climatic developments. This is true for fluctuations of a natural manner, but also to fluctuations caused by humans.
One of the leading institutions in the field of marine research in Europe is the GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel (Germany). The task of the Institute is to study the chemical, physical, biological and geological processes in the ocean and their interaction with the seafloor and the atmosphere.
For this purpose the AUV (Autonomous Underwater Vehicle) AEGIR was developed at the institute. The underwater vehicle is equipped with four drives, various navigation sensors - and an industrial CMOS camera from IDS. It can move wirelessly to depths of up to 200m in the water column to take pictures of the seabed.
For example, underwater seagrass meadows are to be continuously monitored in order to investigate growth rates, species occurrences or changes in mussel populations. Divers are currently measuring and photographing such underwater meadows. The use of the AUV will make this monitoring easier and repeatable in the future.
The USB 3.0 camera from IDS, directed to the sea floor, is permanently installed in a pressure housing and equipped with a flashlight consisting of two LEDs. The IDS UI-3370CP Rev.2 camera looks vertically down and photographs the seabed under the AUV.
In order to create photo mosaics of connected areas of the biotopes, the visual information is calculated in post-processing to a large map. This makes the so-called habitat mapping, i.e. the recording and evaluation of data in habitats of certain animal or plant species, much easier.
"Our goal in the future is to use even more autonomous underwater devices to efficiently study larger areas of the oceans and seas," explains Marcel Rothenbeck, Technical Director of the AUV team at GEOMAR. The AUV Aegir "made in Kiel" is designed for use in the rough North and Baltic Sea and serves as a test object for new navigation and control software and sensors.
In addition to the USB 3.0 camera, which has its own computer and a connection to the vehicle's main computer, the AUV is equipped with an acoustic Doppler speedometer, a combined pressure and sound velocity sensor and a total of four drives or propellers. This means that the underwater vehicle can already dive and navigate stably at low speeds.
Further development of navigation algorithms
The further development of navigation algorithms is an important goal of the researchers in addition to marine biological findings. In the future, the generated images will be used for visual odometry - the estimation of the position and orientation of the AUV based on data from its propulsion system. "By ‘moving’ structures or markers on the photos, a speed vector can be calculated. This vector can reduce the continuously growing drift in position determination and improve navigation," explains Marcel Rothenbeck.
Tough in the rough ocean
The dimensions of the AUV are designed so that it can be transported to all test locations without great logistical effort. A robust camera with a compact design was needed for this purpose. At the same time, a high resolution coupled with a large sensor is required, which, in reverse, shows a high light sensitivity and low noise.
With their AUV, the GEOMAR researchers will in future facilitate the investigation of underwater habitats and make it more efficient and cost-effective. Making things as easy as possible, optimizing processes and advancing research is part of the IDS product philosophy. The application of the GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research fits perfectly with this approach. And perhaps the important findings of the researchers - and thus also IDS cameras - will help to recognise changes more quickly and to react faster to climate change.