HydroSurv’s robotic seagrass solution aims for commercial use

HydroSurv’s robotic seagrass solution aims for commercial use

HydroSurv, a prominent provider of electric and hybrid uncrewed surface vessels (USVs), has successfully secured Innovate UK funding to advance the commercialization of an end-to-end seagrass monitoring solution. This endeavour is supported by the UK’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA).

Dubbed SONARS (Seagrass Observation using Novel Acoustic Remote Sensing), the project will see HydroSurv work with Coastal Marine Applied Research (CMAR) from the University of Plymouth, the Ocean Conservation Trust, Falmouth Harbour and the South Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

The technology package has notably enhanced seagrass mapping capabilities. HydroSurv initiated the development of this non-invasive solution with support from Innovate UK in early 2022, collaborating with the University of Plymouth and Valeport. Previous efforts concentrated on refining acoustic ground discrimination techniques from robotic vessel platforms, culminating in successful live trials over the past two years. The partners anticipate that this next phase of technology advancement will propel the concept towards widespread deployment and commercial viability.

“Working with partners and end users, our focus has shifted from technology development towards the scale pilot of a whole-system solution. The ability to demonstrate to service operator customers and channel partners that the solution has been extensively tested with engagement from survey commissioners, not only on small field trials but also on multiple sites and seasonal resurveys, will build confidence in the solution,” commented David Hull, CEO of HydroSurv. He continued: “We’ve received a lot of interest from survey contractors who are interested in delivering these services, amongst others in environmental monitoring. Working together with them, I expect we could take this solution to market within the next 12 months across the UK and further afield in Europe.”

No need for specialist GIS packages

HydroSurv’s cloud-based data hosting and visualization application, EasySurv, facilitates real-time decision-making without the need for specialist GIS packages or interrogation skills. EasySurv hosts content-managed data deliverables, processed using machine learning algorithms, alongside the raw data collected from the company’s USVs.

Timothy Scott, associate professor in Ocean Exploration at University of Plymouth, said: “It is great to see how our early-stage academic collaboration with HydroSurv is developing into a ready-for-market solution. HydroSurv has leveraged our expertise in hydrographic survey and data analytics to facilitate a streamlined end-to-end solution for seagrass monitoring. We look forward to supporting HydroSurv in this next phase of development.”

HydroSurv is delivering the project from its facilities in Exeter, close to the pilot test sites in the south-west of England. The company will expand its data processing team as a result of the project.

Waterline view of the HydroSurv USV. (Image courtesy: HydroSurv)
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