Telepresence and ROVs/AUVs

Students communicate with scientists on a recent cruise to the Caribbean.
Students communicate with scientists on a recent cruise to the Caribbean. Photo credit Ocean Exploration Trust.

The Inner Space Center (ISC) telepresence facility is an international hub for ocean science exploration and education. Through its advanced state-of-the-art facilities, the ISC expands the number of scientists engaged in live expeditions, inspires the next generation of ocean explorers, and supports some of the largest ocean science education and outreach initiatives in the country. The ISC enables land-based scientists, students, educators, and the public to view and interact with ship-board scientists conducting oceanographic expeditions at sea via satellite communication technology.

The ISC also provides expertise and support for the Exploration Vessel (EV) Nautilus, owned and operated by the Ocean Exploration Trust, and the NOAA Ship Okeanos. These ocean-going vessels are capable of advanced ocean research and exploration. They can produce bathymetric maps of the sea floor using multi-beam sonar, dive remotely operated vehicles, and supply live feeds via satellites from the sea floor and ship to the ISC’s mission control. The ISC also serves similarly equipped vessels in the U.S. academic research fleet, including R/V Endeavor.

The ISC production facilities produce live broadcasts from sea and from its studio, reaching research institutions, schools, museums, aquariums, and other public venues across the world to facilitate interactions between scientists and their colleagues and a wide variety of audiences during expeditions. Recent expeditions were carried out in the Gulf of Mexico, the Caribbean Sea, the Aegean Sea, and off the Oregon coast. ISC collects and systematically archives electronic data and images from these archeological and ocean exploration expeditions in the form of field notes, physical samples, video, and still images for use by researchers and the public for scientific and educational purposes.
Telepresence operations associated with EV Nautilus, managed by GSO’s Inner Space Center, supported collection of data from a hull-imbedded Kongsberg EM302 multi-beam echo sounder for high resolution mapping of the sea floor in real-time. In addition, new data processing and visualization capabilities added to the ship enhance its value to telepresence, research, and ocean exploration.

ROV Hercules takes a sample from the Caribbean sea floor
ROV Hercules takes a sample from the Caribbean sea floor. Photo credit Ocean Exploration Trust.

E/V Nautilus deployed two remotely operated vehicles Hercules and Argus to support research in the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean to explore deep sea coral communities and impacts of hydrocarbon inputs; characterize three 19th century shipwrecks; explore the hydrothermal vents on the Mid-Cayman Rise; investigate tsunami hazards in the Greater Antilles; and define the impact of volcanic eruptions on the seafloor and the presence of fluid venting on biologic communities in the West Indies.

In certain cases, autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs) deployed from small vessels are more cost-effective in conducting preliminary surveys of submarine archaeological artifacts than utilizing large research vessels. Normally used as an educational tool, the AUV Dora with its side-scan sonar was deployed by GSO scientists from the sail training vessel Bodrum to identify two previously uncharted ancient shipwrecks in the Aegean Sea.