Advanced Methods and Technologies for Environmental Mapping and Monitoring and Underwater Infrastructures Inspection and Ocean fluid dynamics modelling

Robotic tools for automated seismic surveys – rooted in a solid conceptual foundation, the R&D activities carried out by ISR in the scope of National and European projects have led to the development and at-sea demonstration of innovative methods and groundbreaking technologies for ocean data acquisition using cooperative marine robots connected via acoustic networks. The latter are available through the unique marine infrastructures of LARSyS, in tight collaboration with commercial and academic partners in Europe. For the first time worldwide, in the scope of the EU WiMUST project (WiMUST-ISR), a mission was performed in 2018 at sea in Sines, Portugal with a fleet of seven autonomous marine robots performing geotechnical seismic surveys (high resolution 3D sub bottom mapping) cooperatively, using an acoustic communication network,in a fully automatic manner. In this application, two surface vehicles carried acoustic sources to insonify the water column and penetrate the sea bottom, in striking contrast to the classical use of manned vessels with prohibitive operation costs. The underwater vehicles were equipped with advanced sensors for seismic surveying (streamers with hydrophones) and underwater target localization. Recently, ISR developed, in cooperation with the commercial companies GeoSurveys, PT and Geomarine Survey Systems, NL a miniaturized system (RoboGeo) for high resolution 3D sub-bottom mapping in very shallow waters (an area of work virtually unexplored by so far) consisting of a catamaran-class autonomous surface vehicle equipped with extendable arms pulling an array of four streamers, maneuvering autonomously. 

The impact is manifold and includes a plethora of applications in areas that are extremely relevant to the implementation of public policies and include Offshore Energy, Environmental Studies, Habitat Mapping, Assessment of Ocean Resources, Infrastructures Inspection and Monitoring, and Natural Risk Assessment. As an example, the long last collaboration with IPMA is being further developed with a view to using the types of systems described to map natural hazards at an unprecedented resolution in areas of restricted navigation (e.g. faults near bridge foundations and past landslides that may have been at the origin of tsunamis, for example in the Tagus river, Lisbon area) and evaluate the risk of future landslides.

The MOHID modelling system – public domain and open source – is a major contribution of MARETEC for the marine systems community (MOHID Water) and for the agriculture and hydrological resources management community. The two models share the same graphical interface and modules dealing with I/O, solvers and atmospheric coupling. This model is the fundamental vehicle of international scientific cooperation of a group of researchers at LARSyS and of its relationship with the industry. MARETEC has contributed to technology transfer with private companies, by sharing the knowledge gained in their R&D activities leading to improvements in the MOHID model with far reaching impact on Offshore Energy, Fish Farming, Environment, Climate, and Coastal Protection. This relationship with the private sector was mostly achieved by collaborative R&D projects with two spin-offs from MARETEC (Action Modulers and Hidromod), and consulting services (AQUALOGUS, Lda and Flow.Ges, a spin-off from IST). Also, during this period, MARETEC has maintained its operational modelling platform for the Portuguese Coast – PCOMS, with continuous 3-day forecasts for the entire continental Portuguese waters and major estuaries. The results from these models were made available online seamlessly, and used by private and public organisms.