Anja Babić, Nadir Kapetanović, Igor Kvasić
The joint IEEE-OES and MTS OCEANS 2019 Conference & Exhibition held from the 17th to 20th of June in Marseille, France, represented the very first OCEANS experience for Anja Babić, Nadir Kapetanović, and Igor Kvasić, PhD students, researchers at the LABUST – Laboratory for Underwater Systems and Technologies, and members of the IEEE OES University of Zagreb Student Branch Chapter.
Nadir Kapetanović presented his paper Side-Scan Sonar Data-Driven Coverage Path Planning: A Comparison of Approaches in a poster session, while Igor Kvasić presented the preliminary results of his PhD thesis research in the paper titled Convolutional Neural Network Architectures for Sonar-Based Diver Detection and Tracking.
Anja Babić, as the Chair of the SBC, was chosen to be on the panel of judges for the OCEANS 2019 Student Poster Competition. The competition was a tough one, with many candidates presenting diverse research, showing off work more than deserving of a prize.
Participating in the scoring discussion among the judges was particularly interesting, offering useful insight into and various views on both research practices and the presentation- and communication-related aspects of the fields involved. Getting to interact with the students and hear about their work, as well as consider it in greater depth, was a fairly novel and ultimately rewarding experience.
In between lectures and presentations and during the OCEANS social events and meals, Anja, Nadir, and Igor also got to meet up and brainstorm with various international colleagues. This included frequent collaborator Edin Omerdić, PhD, from the University of Limerick, Ireland, who presented a joint research paper between the Universities of Zagreb and Limerick produced through the H2020-TWINNING project EXCELLABUST, titled Multi-Modal Supervision Interface Concept for Marine Systems.
While the conference side of OCEANS perhaps resembled events all three students had previous experience with, the exhibition did not, and touring the various company stands and presentations was an amazing opportunity. The many companies whose stands they had a chance to visit included ALSEAMAR with their glider designed to endure an impressive 4 to 8 weeks at sea, and which can be used for oil and gas monitoring, marine environment surveys, and anti-submarine warfare, as well as rapid environmental assessments.
At the stand of SUBSEA TECH, some interesting ideas were exchanged about the catamaran design of surveying autonomous surface vehicles (ASVs), which was something especially relevant and interesting since both Nadir and Anja have experience in the area of bathymetric surveys, and a catamaran design seems very efficient in terms of survey speed and vessel stability for the ASV mounted with a multibeam sonar.
Another interesting design of an ASV was presented by the iXblue company. Their DriX vessel, which is 8m long and has an endurance of more than 10 days, can reach speeds of over 14 knots thanks to its diesel engine and 250l tank.
Nido Robotics, sharing their expertise in building innovative underwater vehicles, was one of the more familiar partner companies seen at OCEANS, along with the many component manufacturers such as SubConn and MacArtney displaying their latest product lines. Tritech presented their newest additions to the imaging sonar technologies, which is always an interesting tool in the context of the students’ parent laboratory’s underwater research topics.
On June 19th, Nadir and Igor participated in the field trip organized by ORUS 3D (daughter company of COMEX) and their company presentation aboard the workship Janus II. The company team gave a short introduction of their 3D photogrammetric reconstruction technology – being the only ones that are certified by BUREAU VERITAS for millimetric and even sub-millimetric accuracy of the 3D models reconstructed using solely visual information. Their system consists of 3 cameras and an LED lighting system, which is mounted on the APACHE ROV. This system is used for offshore oil and gas inspections, civil engineering inspections, archeological site documentation and 3D reconstruction, as well as marine sciences and military defense.
The object chosen for the workshop presentation happened to be one of Jacques Cousteau’s famous observation stations, which was abandoned in the 90s when it caught fire and sank. After reaching the location just in front of the famous National Park Calanques, where the company tests its equipment and algorithms on underwater objects, the ORUS team deployed the APACHE ROV and started taking recordings of the underwater site. At the same time, in the office aboard the ship, the attendees of the company presentation were introduced to the developed 3D photogrammetric reconstruction pipeline, resulting in the dense point cloud and parts of the 3D model being generated on-the-go.
COMEX ORUS 3D team showing the presentation participants how the 3D model of the inspected object is being generated on-the-go from the visual feedback of a 3-camera system
During the return to the Marseille marina, the presentation participants were given the chance to experience the reconstructed 3D models of the underwater objects in virtual reality (VR).
After the official OCEANS program was over, there was still time to visit some of Marseille’s most famous landmarks, including the Notre-Dame de la Garde basilica and the Old Port, to enjoy the atmosphere of the Panier – Marseille’s oldest neighborhood, and to view some of the current exhibitions at the MuCEM (Museum Of European And Mediterranean Civilizations).
All in all, OCEANS 2019 in Marseille proved to be an excellent and above all well-rounded experience, with highly relevant scientific talks and posters to be found in the conference part, and impressive and novel technical solutions on display in the exhibition part. The opportunities for networking and idea exchange should also not be understated, as the event schedule offered many. Anja, Igor, and Nadir all managed to find their niches represented, and gained insights that will be helpful in pursuing their respective PhDs, as well as their future work in the field of marine robotics and systems.