Fujitsu shaping tomorrow’s underwater world with pioneering technology

Fujitsu shaping tomorrow’s underwater world with pioneering technology

Fujitsu has presented a pioneering technology that harnesses Lidar and AI to capture high-resolution 3D data of organisms, coral reefs and man-made structures such as offshore wind turbines using autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs). This innovation is a pivotal part of Fujitsu’s research and development endeavours aimed at constructing ocean digital twins. These digital twins offer researchers precise replicas of underwater ecosystems, enabling them to forecast environmental changes and simulate the potential outcomes of conservation efforts.

This technology builds upon a real-time measurement technique initially developed for the company’s ‘Judging Support System’, a collaboration with the International Gymnastics Federation to aid gymnastics judging. Even in challenging conditions such as rough currents and waves, this technique enables mobile AUVs to conduct scans seamlessly. Moreover, Fujitsu’s AI technology enhances images by correcting colours and clarifying details, facilitating accurate identification and measurement of targets, even in murky waters, down to several centimetres.

To verify the technology, Fujitsu conducted a field trial in the waters near Ishigaki Island, Okinawa prefecture in Japan, alongside the National Maritime Research Institute, National Institute of Maritime, Port and Aviation Technology (NMRI), successfully acquiring precise 3D data for mapping coral reefs.

Seaweed beds and coral reefs

In the coming years, the Japanese technology powerhouse aims to broaden the scope of this technology to encompass seaweed, a significant absorber of blue carbon. By 2026, it plans to establish an ocean digital twin for seaweed beds. This advancement will assist companies and local governments in various endeavours, including estimating carbon stored in seaweed beds, implementing conservation and cultivation measures for new seaweed beds, and promoting biodiversity conservation in coral reefs.

Fujitsu is developing ocean digital twin technology to support global climate change efforts and ocean biodiversity preservation. Using AUVs and satellites, it is gathering data on marine ecosystems, including vegetation distribution, underwater structures and marine life. This data is used to create a model that simulates environmental changes and organism growth, aiding in pre-verifying marine-related measures such as blue carbon initiatives. This technology allows for advanced verification of conservation measures and their effectiveness in combating global warming.

Visualization outlining the concept of ocean digital twin technology in the context of achieving SX. (Image courtesy: Fujitsu)

High-resolution 3D shape data

To conserve marine ecosystems and understand the amount of carbon dioxide absorption, it is necessary to acquire high-resolution 3D shape data with a resolution within several centimetres and to identify underwater organisms and estimate their volume. Existing technologies such as acoustic sonar prove insufficient for this task however, with resolution limited to about 10cm due to issues such as beam width limitations.

Image-enhancement AI technology

Fujitsu developed an image-enhancement AI technology that performs deep learning optimized for underwater subjects to create high-resolution 3D images of underwater organisms and structures, even from images taken from murky water where the colour is distorted and the contours of objects are blurred. This technology consists of two types of AI – one that achieves turbidity removal and one that achieves contour restoration, correcting the original colour of the subject and improving the blurred contours of target objects to generate enhanced images before 3D conversion. This prevents errors during 3D processing and subject recognition, making it possible to measure the shape of each object.

Results of 3D measurements utilizing underwater Lidar technology. (Image courtesy: Fujitsu)

Underwater 3D measurement technology

To measure in 3D in real time underwater, Fujitsu adapted a high-speed sampling technology that uses short-cycle laser emission and high-speed scanning, which it developed for its ‘Judging Support System’ developed in collaboration with the International Gymnastics Federation to assist in gymnastics judging. Furthermore, Fujitsu introduced an underwater Lidar device that allows selection of the suitable wavelength for measurement according to sea conditions from three laser wavelengths. This will not only enable three-dimensional measurement from a moving autonomous unmanned submarine, but also make it possible to measure moving objects by developing technology to follow the movement of objects.

To confirm the effectiveness of this technology, Fujitsu, in collaboration with NMRI, conducted a field trial to automatically collect underwater data in real time. Fujitsu equipped an underwater sensor that combines a camera and Lidar for real-time 3D measurement, integrating it into the ‘AUV-ASV connected system’ developed by NMRI. From this experiment, high-resolution 3D data of centimetre-scale objects, including pipes installed underwater and coral reefs, was successfully acquired in real time.

Ocean digital twin technology

In the future, Fujitsu will continue to develop technologies that can reliably acquire data even in challenging environments (e.g. strong currents and uneven seabed topography) and participate in measures that are expected to contribute to decarbonization by promoting the growth of carbon-absorbing seaweed. Measurement targets will be expanded to include inspections and accumulate use cases. Based on the measured 3D data, Fujitsu will develop ocean digital twin technology that performs simulations incorporating knowledge from biology, environmental science and other fields. Fujitsu aims to build partnerships with companies, local governments and organizations working on measures towards carbon neutrality, and to support customers in planning measures using ocean digital twin technology.

For the full article and additional details, please consult the Fujitsu website.

Fujitsu integrated an advanced underwater sensor, incorporating both camera and Lidar technologies, into the AUV-ASV connected system developed by the Japanese National Maritime Research Institute, facilitating real-time 3D measurements. (Image courtesy: Fujitsu)
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