An ecoSUB underwater robotic vehicle owned and operated by the Scottish Association for Marine Science will go on an Arctic research mission deemed too dangerous for humans in a bid to help scientists understand the true extent of melting from Arctic glaciers.
The team from (SAMS) in Oban, led by oceanographer Prof Mark Inall, will deploy an ecoSUB to the foot of a melting glacier in Arctic Norway. The aim is to learn more about the effect of meltwater on a process called ‘calving’, which causes huge chunks of ice to break off the glacier edge.
Less than a metre in length and just four kilogrammes in weight, the ecoSUB will enter one of the most hostile environments on the planet to take measurements such as temperature and salinity as far down as 100 metres below Kronebreen glacier on Svalbard. The work will give researchers a clearer picture of how warming ocean properties affect the calving process.
Prof Inall said: “Given the importance of Arctic glacial ice melt in terms of climate change and sea level rise, the interaction between melt water and sea water beneath glaciers is hugely understudied. We have satellite images and models that help to predict the extent of ice loss but it is extremely important to ‘ground-truth’ these predictions by investigating conditions in the field.
“It would simply be too dangerous to go into such a hostile and remote environment with a boat. Not only is there a risk of falling ice, but large-scale calving causes huge waves, so it is a dangerous environment. That is where the ecoSUB will come into its own, working at the front line of Arctic science.”
ecoSUB’s readings will help researchers better understand the process of sub-glacial discharge, a term given to melt water that flows down through the glacier and out into the ocean. This water is fresher than the surrounding sea water, so starts to rise in the water column, creating a plume that pulls in warmer Atlantic water. As it rises, it circulates and creates a sandpaper effect against the face of the glacier. This process undermines the wall of ice, causing huge chunks to collapse into the sea.
SAMS will also deploy a larger AUV further from the glacier to take more detailed measurements and a drone will take aerial images of the glacier to help build a 3D map, whilst capturing a bird’s-eye view of calving events.
James Coogan, a University of the Highlands and Islands PhD student at SAMS, will be operating the ecoSUB. He said much of the current understanding of sub-glacial discharge was based on mathematic models. “We want to get direct measurements of these plumes,” he added. “How much fresh water is coming out of the glacier? How much of an effect is this having on the fjord water? How much heat and salt is in the water flowing in? “These are questions we can answer to an extent with models but we need to check these conclusions with real data from the field. That hasn’t been feasible, until now.”
The team travels to Svalbard on Wednesday, August 7.
Our Chief Robotics Engineer, Jérémy Sitbon, has returned from a trip to Zanzibar supporting the SOLSTICE project with colleagues from the National Oceanography Centre, including Dr Matthew Palmer.
During Jérémy's short trip one of our ecoSUBm5 AUVs was used to complete some very simple coral reef surveys with a GoPro camera whilst measuring temperature and Chlorophyll concentration with a Valeport Hyperion fluorometer.
We'll share more news from this trip in the near future, but below are a few images and a short video from the mission.
SOLSTICE-WIO is a four-year project funded by the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF). The project addresses three sustainable development challenges facing developing countries: Images and our participation are courtesy of SOLSTICE.
Images & video acknowledgements: NOC/SOLSTICE/GCRF
We spent much of last week at sea extending our testing of our underwater acoustic localisation and navigation system. We had an ambitious target to get 10 of our ecoSUBs in the water operating together within a network, unfortunately we only got to six before we ran out of time on the water :(
We had many successes during the week and will be back out soon to finish off the mission!
Our many thanks to Smart Sound Plymouth for use of Plymouth Quest, PML Explorer and the Smart Sound Laboratory based at Plymouth Marine Lab (PML). Our special thanks to James Fishwick of PML/Smart Sound for all his help and support with coordination, logistics and piloting PML Explorer.
Friday afternoon and 13 ecoSUB AUVs are all ready for next week where we will be running 10 together for a Rapid Environmental Characterisation Test. In two hours we will provide a multi depth lawnmower survey of a 1km x 1km box collecting data on the concentration of hydrocarbons and Chlorophyll. Watch this space for some exciting results...
Smart Network Positioning is an output from an 18 month Innovate UK supported project. Project partners are Planet Ocean Limited, National Oceanography Centre and University of Newcastle. We've done really cool things to make low cost, smart AUV technology even more useful and accessible.
To find out more email us via firstname.lastname@example.org
Production versions of ecoSUB AUVs will be available from September 2019.
Many thanks to all our early adopter customers, who along with our busy trials team, have given our advanced prototype systems some excellent early testing. Our production versions feature significant enhancement to their usability and robustness, as well as some excellent work on the vehicles hydrodynamics and propulsion to boost efficiency through water and some awesome upgrades to our electronics which will enable more compatibility with multiple payloads as well as some substantial improvement on power management.
Many thanks to our dedicated engineering team, the vision & guidance of our founder & MD Terry Sloane and the technical leadership of Dr Alex Phillips, National Oceanography Centre, and Jérémy Sitbon, ecoSUBs Chief Robotics Engineer.
We have appreciated all the interest ecoSUB has received from all corners of the world, and now look forward to being able to start taking orders and letting our customers get their hands on our low cost, smart AUV systems.
To request a quote for any of our ecoSUB AUVs please click here
Royal Navy supports successful trial of new micro-robots – ecoSUB provides 100% data for MASSMO 5b
Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson was the latest VIP to visit the NOC where he got a closeup look at ecoSUB-u and announced an ambitious plan to bring together all of the Government's international oceans work under a single strategy for the first time.
The Government will agree and implement a new oceans strategy, under the aegis of the FCO, which will cover work from departments including Defra, BEIS, DfT and DIT. The strategy will be developed over the coming months. Responding to the recommendation from the Government Chief Scientific Adviser to develop a more strategic approach to marine and maritime policy, it will provide a blueprint for international action by HMG towards the oceans that supports the long-term prosperity of the UK and the long-term health of the marine environment.
Member of Parliament for East Surrey. Minister for Universities, Science, Research & Innovation gets his hands on ecoSUB