The International Interdisciplinary Field Training of Marine Robotics and Applications 'Breaking the Surface' sub-programme is one of the two flagship Dissemination activities of the EU-funded FP7 CAPACITIES REGPOT-2008-1 project 'Developing the Croatian Underwater Robotics Research Potential - CURE', scheduled to run in years 2009 through 2011. The first of the series of annual Field Trainings took place at the island of Murter, Middle Dalmatia region of Croatia, 4. – 11. October 2009.
It consisted of three program tracks: Marine Robotics (MAROB), Marine Biology (MARBIO) and Maritime Archaeology (MARCH). The aim of the first Field Training was to open perspectives and venues for interaction of marine robotics research at the Ph.D. level in currently competitive areas where advances are being made to the state of the art (localization, mapping, side-scan sonar processing, navigation sensors) with either research or professional applications in end-user disciplines, primarily marine biology and maritime archaeology.
The program included 2 full days of field activities in the Kornati archipelago National Park, including participant dives, overseen by experienced dive masters / marine biologists and maritime archaeologists and supplemented by the use of UUVs - unmanned underwater vehicles.
MAROB - Marine Robotics program in a nutshell
The MAROB module focused on the needs, in terms of the quality of navigation (localization) data and controllability of the UUVs, of the end user disciplines – marine biology and maritime archaeology surveys and research activities. Two distinct problem areas were looked into: assisted human-in-the-loop control and the implementation of the “smart ROV” paradigm aimed at the collaborative use of an ROV in the same waterspace as professional divers performing surveys; And georeferencing obtained navigation solutions and collected data-sets obtained by the use of an AUV, in order to provide a priori situational awareness (prior to human diving) of a particular geo-localized site exhibiting an elevated potential from the standpoint of either marine biology or maritime archaeology (or both).
MARBIO - Marine Biology program in a nutshell
The MARBIO module was devised as a study in which participants were to assess the characteristics of the red gorgonian (Paramuricea clavata) populations in two locations in the Kornati National Park using two different approaches, leading to two various tool-sets. A manual survey was carried out by divers using standard methods to obtain population density, size and depth distribution data. At the same pair of locations, data were also collected by a ROV in a partially automated survey. Data from both surveys were processed and results compared. The differences in the quality of data, ease and effectiveness of the field-work and necessary capabilities required to field both sets of tools and human teams (for a manual diver-performed survey and for a ROV survey) were clarified, commented on and propositions were made for inclusion of ROVs in marine biology population density surveying and research.
MARCH - Maritime Archaeology program in a nutshell
The MARCH module focused on two of the main problems present in archaeological research underwater. The first one is the best approach for treating the already known underwater sites lying at various depths while the second one is related to effective and fast systematic survey of areas with elevated archaeological potentials (but without certainty to the disposition of possible sites or artifacts) in order to discover new sites and plan future work. It was established that in approaching an effective and economical solution to both problems, the use of UUV carries high potential and could bring most valuable results.
More about the technical programme and details of all the activities undertaken can be found at the official site.