June 2021 OES Beacon OES Beacon

Chapter News (June 2021)

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Argentina Chapter 

OES special session on ARGENCON 2020

Reported by Gerardo Acosta, Argentina Chapter Chair

The three talks given by our IEEE OES Distinguished Lecturers.

From the 1st to the 4th, the Argentina Section’s biennial conference was held during the past December. In cooperation with its General Chair, Dr. Carlos Alejandro Pérez, and the Program Committee Chairs, Dra. María Daniela López De Luise and Dr. Ricardo Armentano, the IEEE OES Argentina Chapter members organized a special session with the presentation of some papers about related ocean technology topics and three excellent talks of our program of Distinguished Lecturers. With about 60 attendees on average for each of them, the first talk was a pleasant description of the insights gained from a decade of autonomous marine systems development at the University of Sydney’s Australian Centre for Field Robotics, led by Stephan Williams. During this time, this team has developed and deployed numerous underwater vehicles and imaging platforms in support of applications in engineering science, marine ecology, archaeology, and geoscience. They have successfully collected millions of images of the seafloor around Australia and made these available to the scientific community through online data portals developed by the facility and affiliated groups.  These observations are providing important insights into the dynamics of key ecological sites and their responses to oceanographic condition changes through time. They have also contributed to expeditions to document coral bleaching, cyclone recovery, submerged neolithic settlement sites, ancient shipwrecks, methane seeps, and deepwater hydrothermal vents.

Part of the amusing conference of Stefan Williams about marine environment exploration with autonomous robots.

The second talk was an amusing lecture given by John Potter about underwater acoustic communications. He explained how, in the last decades, technological advances in autonomous vehicle engineering, control theory, Global Positioning, battery chemistry, computational power, memory, advanced materials, additive manufacturing, and so many other fields have combined to enable the dream of sampling the ocean to gather as much information as possible.  But to empower these new autonomous vehicles, they need to communicate, even more than that, they need to collaborate through an Internet of Underwater Things. This can only be achieved over significant distances by acoustic communications.  Thus, this formerly highly specialized field, initially developed almost exclusively for military purposes, has now been catapulted into the forefront of necessary enabling technologies for the future. Underwater communications and networking is now a critical enabling technology for the future of maritime activities, just as WiFi and the internet has become an indispensable foundation for everything we do on land and in the air and space above.  Maritime robotics is a game-changing disruptive technology wave that, like a tsunami, is drawing breath to swamp everything we thought we knew about how to operate in the largest and most important biosphere on our planet.  And this tsunami is founded on underwater acoustic communication and networking.

Part of the amusing conference of John Potter about underwater acoustic communications.

The third talk was a very interesting conference given by Hanumant Singh, about his enormous experience in marine and polar robotics. Using amazing examples from Marine Robotics, he described some of the roots of the current efforts of his team to use robots in areas with strong social relevance – Fisheries, Coral Reef Ecology, Oil Spills, and Marine Geology in the Arctic, and understanding the role of climate change in the Antarctic and how that is affecting the ecology of the Southern Ocean. He showed how these applications had motivated fundamental analysis in the areas of SLAM, Imaging, and Computer Vision and Autonomy. Finally, he gave us a look to the future to provide a vision of the challenges we will face in the coming decades.1

Ref.1: the summaries of the talks were extracted from the abstracts of them given by the lecturers.

Providence Chapter 

Reported by David Leslie, OE22 Chapter Secretary

Fig. 1: Prof. Lora Van Uffelen deploying Seagliders on an expedition in the Beaufort Sea conducted using the Coast Guard vessel Healey.

On March 11, 2021, Lora J. Van Uffelen, Ph.D., delivered a technical talk to the Providence Section, Ocean Engineering Chapter, titled “Global Positioning Systems: Over Land and Under Sea.” Dr. Van Uffelen is an Assistant Professor in the Ocean Engineering Department at the University of Rhode Island, Narragansett, RI, USA, where she teaches undergraduate and graduate classes and directs the Ocean Platforms Experiments and Research in Acoustics Lab (OPERA). Her research focus is on long range acoustic propagation and she has extensive cruise experience. This was our chapter’s 3rd online presentation made remotely via Zoom during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS) provide reliable positioning for the land, air, and space domains using electromagnetic signals, but are not useful below the sea surface due to attenuation.  Sound on the other hand can travel long distances underwater and can be used for positioning of underwater vehicles, sensors, and even animals.   In her talk, Prof. Van Uffelen provided an overview of different methods for determining position underwater using acoustics and explored the challenges and potential for the implementation of a large-scale acoustic positioning system underwater. Many of the topics discussed were also described in her recent feature article in Acoustics Today (1).

GNSS has a long history of development both in the USA (GPS) and internationally (GLONASS, BEIDOU, GALILEO). The GPS project itself started in 1973 with the NAVSTAR satellite being launched in 1978 and the full 24 satellite constellation becoming operational in 1995. Coverage has improved over the years. Prof. Van Uffelen highlighted the early contributions of Gladys Mae West and others who generated databases to make localization calculations. The GPS system grew out of military applications such as localization, tracking, navigation, mapping and timing. The system was designed with submarines in mind, but it only works at the sea surface. Oceanographic platforms, which use GPS, include Argo floats, buoys off Block Island, Seagliders with GPS antenna and the Liquid Robotics wave glider, among others.

In the absence of GPS, subsea systems have navigated using dead reckoning or MEMS-based inertial measurements. Doppler velocity logs can be used close to the bottom. Underwater acoustic positioning systems have operated using long, short and ultra-short baselines. Long baseline systems employing four transponders on the seafloor, for example, are effective at ranges up to a few kilometers. Short baseline systems may use transponders on different ends of a surface vessel. Ultra-short baseline, making use of small transponder arrays, may also be deployed on vessels. These systems use acoustical signals in the tens of kHz.

Long-range applications make use of sound propagation through the SOFAR channel where acoustical energy, trapped at depths near the sound speed minimum, does not interact with the bottom. This enables sound propagation to very long distances. Swallow floats are neutrally buoyant oceanographic floats equipped with acoustic pingers. While drifting at depths in the SOFAR channel theses devices have been tracked using near shore SOSUS hydrophone arrays at distances up to 1000 km. A variation on this technology, so-called RAFOS floats, reverses the process by putting receivers rather than sound sources on the floats. This allows for a smaller float. Such floats have been used to help map ocean circulation. Initially these systems used narrow band, low-frequency sound sources (500-600 Hz).  More recently, the use of broadband sources (~50 Hz bandwidth in the 100 – 200 Hz range) has enabled higher resolution of arrival time and better estimation of both travel time and receiver location. Estimates of travel time over long path lengths can also be used to invert for average sound speed, or to map sound speed if many travel paths are available in tomographic experiments.

Prof. Van Uffelen illustrated these principles using results she obtained in the Ocean Acoustic Tomography Experiment in the Philippine Sea: 2010-2011. In that experiment six sources were used to broadcast broadband signals (center frequency= 250 Hz, 100 Hz bandwidth) to four Seagliders. The sources and receivers could all transmit to each other. When their positions were known it was possible to invert for sound speed and infer ocean temperature. The localization of underwater vehicles at long ranges is an active area of research. Scattering of acoustic signals due to internal waves makes peak matching and arrival time estimation more difficult.  Automatic peak matching is now being performed using machine learning techniques.

In the Canada Basin Acoustic Propagation/Glider Experiment, acoustic Seagliders were deployed in August/September of 2016 and 2017. The gliders circulated in the area, listening to 250 Hz sources at distances of up to 250 km. There is no deep SOFAR channel in the Arctic Ocean, but there is a so-called Beaufort duct near the surface, within which acoustic rays bounce back and forth. Near real-time range estimates were computed using WHOI Micromodems on the gliders. Acoustic arrival time matching (AAM) was performed using Parabolic Equation modelling. Results showed that position uncertainty could be reduced by a factor of 4-5 in postprocessing using AAM to match the acoustic peaks.

A Global Navigation Acoustic System is now being envisioned which could serve multiple purposes, including tomography, thermometry, geo-positioning, timekeeping, and passive acoustic monitoring. The technical requirements of such a system are challenging. Sound sources need to be powerful, yet environmental considerations may constrain the system as attention is given to its impact on marine life. Standards need to be developed and precision insured. Operational expense needs to be justified. Yet encouraging precedent exists in the success of the International Monitoring system for Nuclear Testing (IMS) for which extensive coverage of the world’s oceans is obtained using a limited number of listening stations (2).

Prof. Van Uffelen left us with optimistic and hopeful final thoughts. GPS was designed to meet national defense, civil, commercial and scientific needs in air, sea and on land. It has only been 25 years since it became fully operational and it is now being aided by big data and AI. An underwater analogue would revolutionize ocean science, naval applications, and underwater vehicles. Underwater acoustics is a promising way to approach this on a large scale.

Ref.1: Van Uffelen, Lora J., “Global Positioning Systems: Over Land and Under Sea,” Acoustics Today, Spring 2021, Vol. 17, Issue 1.

Ref.2: Howe BM, Miksis-Olds J,Rehm E, Sagen H, Worcester PF and Haralabus G (2019) Observing the Oceans Acoustically. Front. Mar. Sci. 6:426. doi: 10.3389/fmars.2019.00426

Japan Chapter 

The 5th Underwater Technology Forum ZERO -Online

Reported by Harumi Sugimatsu, OES- J Vice Chair

From “Impact of benthic burrows on marine environment” by Koji Seike (Geological Survey of Japan, AIST)

The 5th Underwater Technology Forum・ZERO was held online from 13:00 to 17:00 on 23rd April 2021, on the U-Tokyo Komaba Research  Campus in Tokyo.  As this is the third online forum since the one held on April 2020, we, organizers and participants, are getting familiar to the online meeting. Still, sometimes, technical issues such as the presentation slides getting stuck occur, however, it has become possible for people who live in a distance area can participate and give a lecture.

The topics of this forum are as follows;

  • Impact of benthic burrows on marine environment
  • Temperature rise and freezing delay mechanism in the Pacific Arctic Ocean
  • Automatic classification of seafloor images by machine learning
  • Development and operation of AUV by a private corporation –- Introduction of Tuna Sand class hovering type new AUV “YOUZAN”
  • Special Session on IoT for Ocean Observation
From “Automatic classification of seafloor images by machine learning” by Takaki Yamada (University of Southampton)

-Application of advanced Information and Communication technology to the ocean

-Wide area deployment of 5G/6G realized by stratosphere platform “HAPS” (unmanned solar aerial vehicle)

-Development of high-speed underwater acoustic communication tool (>600kbpsXkm) for deep sea exploration.

From “Wide area deployment of 5G/6G realized by stratosphere platform “HAPS”” by Akinori Machida (SoftBank)

More than 280 people participated in the forum and enjoyed the discussions.  The next forum will be held on October 8th.  We are looking for the speakers from overseas (sorry for the time difference). 

Malaysia Chapter 

6th Annual General Meeting 2021

Reported by Mohd Shahrieel Mohd Aras & Zainah Md. Zain

The 6th IEEE OES Malaysia Chapter Annual General Meeting (AGM) was held on 30 January 2021 virtually via Google Meet. The 2020 chapter activities report was presented by the Chair, Dr. Khalid Isa. The chapter had conducted 15 administrative meetings, 22 educational activities, 7 technical activities, 1 membership drive, 1 proffesional activity, 1 social activity and 4 others. The AGM was then followed by the Treasurer’s report, which was presented by Assoc. Prof. Ir. Dr. Zool Hilmi Ismail. Next, the election for 2021/2022 IEEE OES Malaysia Chapter Executive Committees was conducted. The standing committees for 2021/2022 can be seen in the table below.

2021/2022 IEEE OES Malaysia Chapter Executive Committee
Chair Mohd Shahrieel Mohd Aras
Vice Chair Zool Hilmi Ismail
Secretary Zainah Md. Zain
Treasurer Zulkifli Zainal Abidin

Ahmad Faisal Mohamad Ayob

Ahmad Anas Yusof

Nur Afande Ali Hussain


Herdawatie Abdul Kadir

Maziyah Mat Noh

Photo taken after the 6th AGM

1st Technical Talk 2021: Modelling of Underwater Remotely Operated Vehicle for Depth Control

Reported by Zainah Md. Zain & Mohd Shahrieel Mohd Aras

Mohd Shahrieel Mohd Aras and his talk on 6 May, 2021.

Mohd Shahrieel Mohd Aras is an Associate Professor at the Mechatronic Department, Faculty of Electrical Engineering, UTEM. He is also a Chair of the IEEE OES Malaysia Chapter 2021/2022. His main area of interest focuses on Underwater research (Remotely Operated Underwater Vehicle, Underwater Glider, Autonomous Underwater Vehicle, Underwater Crawler), Artificial Intelligence (Fuzzy logic, Neural Network) System Identification, Control system, and PSO. This technical talk discussed on the modelling of underwater remotely operated vehicle for depth control, which included technical concepts and ideas that make it easier for others to contribute to OES projects. This talk was held on 6 May 2021, virtually in FB live at IEEE Oceanic Engineering Society – Malaysia Chapter as well as to promote the chapter.

Canadian Atlantic Chapter 

Reported by Dr. Mae Seto, Chapter Chair

First, the Canadian Atlantic Section (CAS) wishes to acknowledge the recent passing of Dr. Ferial El-Hawary. Ferial was involved in founding the CAS OES Chapter and was deeply involved in many other activities in both OES and the Section for well over 30 years. She was an inspiration and mentor to many and will be deeply missed.

The Canadian Atlantic Chapter has held several events recently.

(1)  Joint OES Events Hosted by East and West Coast Chapters in Canada

In December 2020, the Canadian Atlantic Section (CAS) and Vancouver Section Oceanic Engineering Chapters decided to jointly host a series of presentations.  Although these chapters are separated by four time zones, they successfully held the events with great attendance!

Figure 1. West coast – east cost of Canada project on collaboration of multi-domain marine robots for situational awareness (drone on the left, UUV in the foreground, USV in the background, and the barge (target) is in the mid-ground).

The first presentation was entitled “Multi-Domain Robot Collaboration Towards Situational Awareness on a Floating Target” (also jointly hosted by the CAS Robotics and Automation Society Chapter) by Dr. Mae Seto from Intelligent Systems Laboratory within Dalhousie University.  This event provided an overview on a successful project between an east coast University and their industrial partner on the west coast, Cellula Robotics.  This is a topic of particular interest to the Canadian Coast Guard and Department of National Defence (DND).  It was attended by IEEE and non-IEEE members alike, from both the east and west coasts of Canada.

Figure 2. A lab-on-chip for performing chemistry on the high seas. The microchannels in the phosphate chip shown are based on a patent-pending inlaid optical channel technology, which interweaves black and clear materials for creating integral optical windows.

The second presentation was in February 2021 entitled “Can we really deploy thousands of lab-on-ship systems in marine environments” by Dr. Vincent Sieben from Dartmouth Ocean Technologies Inc.  (Dartmouth, Nova Scotia).  The presentation explored the emerging application of microfluidic devices to ocean sensing and its potential for measuring ocean-based environmental DNA and nutrients.  The presentation was attended by a diverse group of engineering students, engineers from industry, chemists, defence contractors, and many more.  For this event, once again, there were attendees from the east and west coasts of Canada.

A third event in this series is in the planning stage.

(2) On-line Career Fair for Undergraduate Engineers

On April 29, 2021, the CAS OES Chapter, Dalhousie University Student Branch and CAS Industry Relations Committee hosted an on-line job fair with three organizations (companies ranging from start-ups to multi-nationals) representing oceans/marine-based companies and a utilities company.

This event deliberately targeted undergraduate engineering students, both electrical and mechanical, who had just graduated, as well as those soon to graduate.  This group has been especially impacted by the downturn in the economy due to the global pandemic.  The main intent was to focus on the most junior engineers seeking opportunities.

Despite it being soon after the local universities’ winter term exams, there was still a good attendance at the event.  The on-line career fair agenda was kept simple and focussed on the students.  Each organization was given 5 minutes to talk about their organization.  Then, the organizations went into their assigned breakout rooms.  Each breakout room had an IEEE CAS member to assist with moderating questions from the students as needed.   The students freely circulated through the 4 breakout rooms throughout the remainder of the event.

The industrial partners expressed gratitude for the opportunity to speak with interested students.  They have related that online fairs give them the opportunity to talk to the most interested students first before considering their applications further.

Due to the global pandemic, both events were hosted as Zoom meetings.  While in-person events are preferred, the on-line format facilitated participation across different time zones and made it possible for Chapters from different Sections to work together.