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Healthy Oceans

Description:

Topic 8.2: Healthy Oceans

Subtopic 8.2.1N Affordable, lightweight, wireless-control ROV for sustained observation of benthic ecosystems

Summary: Conserving coastal places provides economic benefits to local communities. These communities rely on dollars spent on activities such as recreation and tourism. NOAA's National Ocean Service works to conserve marine areas — and preserve the economic benefits of these special places to local communities through its coastal management and place-based conservation programs. National Marine Sanctuaries are mandated to fulfill this placed-based conservation and through our research we are working to understand the natural and anthropogenic changes and interactions occurring at Gray's Reef.

Traditional neutral buoyancy ROVs (Remotely Operated Vehicles) have more flexibility with endurance underwater by way of the powered umbilical connecting it to the surface operating station. Unfortunately, currents, wave action and underwater stability inconveniently limit long term studies at many sites due to the complexities of the vessel support station needing constant maneuvering to keep from dragging the ROV from its subject of study. Scuba divers, neutral buoyancy ROVs, and the vessels that support them are loud and behave awkwardly and invasively compared to the natural environment surrounding them. This awkward, intrusive behavior results in altered organism behavior thus altering the study itself. A benthic ROV operated wirelessly from the surface can eliminate much of the altered behaviors. The divers are no longer present. With a wireless benthic ROV, the constant maneuvering of the neutral buoyancy ROV is removed and reduced to a slow crawl or no movement at all. This is very important in the study of fishes as the loud and disruptive noise from the support vessel can be eliminated by providing some distance to the surface communications of the crawler. Once the ROV is positioned onto the study site, it can monitor and film its subject silently and without movement. While it is filming, payloads on the chassis such as scientific sensors are also quietly recording data and delivering both the video and data in real time to the surface by way of the wireless transmissions from surface buoy to support station. Government agencies, universities, private organizations and citizens conduct thousands of dives each year studying the waters beneath our global oceans, lakes, and rivers worldwide. NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries and the wider ocean science research and education community would benefit from an affordable (under $15,000.00), lightweight, benthic ROV that communicates wirelessly from its support station (vessel, shore, etc.). To our knowledge, this technology does not exist in the wireless capacity; however there is ample evidence it is needed to accomplish studies over a period of time much longer than that allowed by a scuba diver or the limited resources of the support vessel/station in terms of fuel and personnel. In addition, non-diving personnel should be able to provide direct observations of a reef or its inhabitants, even tiny macro video subjects, in real time without going to the seafloor.

Project Goals: Currently commercially available benthic ROVs are proprietary hardware and software and the ability of the end user to easily customize, repair, or extend the hardware or software capabilities is very limited, and thus NOAA personnel are at the mercy of the manufacturer for support. NOAA personnel should be able to have the control to modify their crawler platform to meet NOAA's changing mission requirements, via commercially available components, access to all spare parts at low cost, and open source software with full access to all source code. The ROV should be a platform which NOAA personnel have full ability to customize, extend, reconfigure, adapt, and repair.

For an operator aboard a nearby surface vessel to most effectively control the robot in real time, the communications and control link between operator and robot should be wireless, allowing the surface vessel freedom from constant maneuvering to precisely station-keep above the robot as it would if it were directly tethered to it. This reduces both manpower required to pilot the vessel while operating the rover and reduces the cost of fuel otherwise consumed in station-keeping. A wireless communication link also allows the operation of the robot from shore.

Most currently available benthic ROVs are designed for greater than 1000 meter depths. While essential for doing deep ocean surveys, this high level of performance (and the inevitable high cost to achieve it) is unnecessary for shallow water surveys such as those typical in the majority of the NOAA National Marine Sanctuaries such as Gray's Reef, Thunder Bay, Channel Islands, Florida Keys, American Samoa, Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whaler and others.

A benthic ROV designed for the littoral zone incorporating a wireless link can be much lower in cost and complexity. This allows NOAA and the scientific community to acquire more of these vehicles and perform more surveys per dollar while also obtaining the cost benefits of reduced manpower required for operation, easier operator training, and greatly reduced vessel fuel consumption.

Even in a well-surveyed Sanctuary like Gray's Reef, many fundamental questions have not been answered. Example: Does this species of fish stay in one area, or wander down the reef over 24 hours? How far does it go? Conducting such a behavior survey involving physically following an organism at unpredictable times over an unpredictable distance would require close coordination of multiple teams of divers doing as many as 24 separate dives (at 60 feet), and a massive logistic and diver support operation. An event whose time of occurrence may be unpredictable such as the time of night an octopus leaves its lair to hunt and when it returns can be difficult to capture for divers with a 50 or 60 minute no-decompression dive limit (especially when divers with their noise, motion and bubbles would have to hover around in front of its lair).

A benthic ROV with a high-definition camera recharged from the surface could follow the organism across the seafloor thereby completing such a survey efficiently and easily. Currently, to complete that survey with any commercially available benthic robot operated via a tether wire directly connected to a surface vessel operator control unit (OCU) the vessel would need to continuously run its engines to maintain constant course corrections to keep station above the rover and so as not to drag it along the seafloor. An untethered radio link of approx. one mile range is desired to allow the vessel some distance from the study site.

System Minimum Requirements

  • Wet Weight Environmental Footprint Threshold <.1psi target <.08 psi. exerted on substrate being traversed, to minimize harm to fauna living in seabed.
  • Dry Weight threshold 40 lbs, target 30 lbs – deployable and recoverable by one person at sea.
  • High Definition 1080P video camera with sufficient control over the camera from the OCI to: (1) Record/Stop (2) Playback Recording (to OCI monitor) (3) Delete Recording (4) Camera Menu System (5) Manual/Auto focus (6) Iris Control (7) Wide Angle / Zoom (8) Turn Video Lights On/Off (9) Camera Pan/Tilt (10) Camera Positioning Arm deploy/retract (11) Desired Radio Link Range Over Seawater with two-foot waves, two-foot swells (12) Minimum 0.4 miles 1.0 miles or better is desired.

Activities include:

  • Trade study of design tradeoffs to achieve threshold and target reliability for ROV and wireless control station at target cost
  • Study of approaches for maximizing surface wireless link range over water
  • Design for digital remote control and mounting of NOAA's three preferred underwater video camera systems and Remote Video Lighting Management
  • Study of methods of scaling the ROV for operation in deeper depths and higher sea states.
  • Study of feasible approaches to long term power and recharging while at depth.

Deliverables include:

  • Detailed proof of concept report documenting the feasibility of designing low cost versions of the subsystems that make up the ROV and the feasibility of building such an ROV (rated for 200 feet), Buoy, Tether, and Control station for under the threshold price of $14,000.00 with a target price of $10,000.00.
  • Detailed trade study of the cost/performance/deck-handling options for the ROV.
  • Detailed trade study of different approaches to maximizing the range of the wireless communications link.
  • Detailed assessment of costs and the additional changes to extend depth to 600 feet.
  • Detailed assessment of power strategies and preferred battery chemistry and in-situ charging techniques.

Phase II Activities and Expected Deliverables:

Activities include:

  • Assemble prototype of complete benthic ROV 63
  • Contract with engineers to optimize mechanical and electronic components for robustness and reliability, design modularity, ease of maintenance, and ease of low cost manufacture.
  • Explore least-cost options for components, including injection molding, rapid prototyping, etc.
  • Complete CAD/CAM design of all mechanical and electrical components necessary for assembly.
  • Develop User-Friendly Operator Control Interface software for use with a standard Windows or Linux Computer and standard "game controller" joystick or other standard 'human interface device' (HID) controller; with options for modular addition of HTML based graphical screen displays of controls such as ROV speed, compass, pitch and roll indicators, battery life, arm position, etc.

Deliverables include:

  • Prototype ROV delivered for test and evaluation to characterized strengths and weaknesses of the system before Phase 3 commercialization.
  • Full engineering documentation for manufacturable components, they should be complete enough to produce all parts ready for assembly. Detailed manufacturing prints for ROV mechanical and electronic systems, Buoy, Cabling, Camera control system, power supply and charger, shipping container, manual; Control Software

NOTE: Even though a prototype may be required to be delivered for the project, it is important to note that this prototype is still the property of the offeror. NOAA would only do field or lab testing on that product to see its feasibility in a production (or development) environment.

 

Subtopic 8.2.2N Lionfish Control

Summary: The western Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea, and Gulf of Mexico are currently experiencing a rapidly expanding and seemingly uncontrolled invasion by Indo-Pacific lionfish. In the last 15 years, populations have grown beyond our ability to control them by traditional response modes – diver removal, for example. Impacts to reef communities are being observed in many locations, with predation rates that can remove up to 70% of the forage base of other reef fish. Lionfish now occupy depths down to 1000 feet, and are in very high densities in many places, the vast majority of which are below diving depths, and they appear to have no currently functioning natural controls. Lionfish have been caught in deep water in some traditional traps, principally lobster traps, and some by hook-and-line, but in insufficient numbers to control populations.

Project Goals: Most fish traps currently in use are not considered environmentally friendly. They can damage habitats, and most are non-selective, capturing and containing fish throughout their deployment period, and subjecting them to predation by other animals that enter the trap. They also produce by-catch, which are non-targeted animals (for example, eels, sharks and grunts in traps intended for other reef fish). The by-catch often dies before it can be released back to the sea, and much that is released cannot return to the bottom because gases that expand in the fish during ascent cause them to be too buoyant to swim back to the bottom on their own. These animals, invariably under heightened stress, are often eaten by barracuda and other predators soon after release. And when lost, traps often continue “ghost fishing,” attracting and killing captured animals as long as they stay intact. Unless new ways are developed to deal with the lionfish invasion through biological controls (parasites, diseases, genetic sterilization), the only practical ways to remove lionfish from deep habitats may be by using innovative capture devices. This subtopic addresses the challenge of developing and testing devices that remove invasive fish from deep water rapidly, in high numbers, and without the drawbacks of other collection techniques.

Phase I Activities and Expected Deliverables: 

Activities include:

  • Prepare conceptual design for device that will: (1) selectively capture lionfish with minimal impact to the environment while operating or if lost, and (2) avoid impacts to non-targeted

Deliverables include:

  • Concept for operations
  • Prototype design
  • Commitments in principle from potential users

Phase II Activities and Expected Deliverables:

Activities include:

  • Build prototype to test operational characteristics
  • Conduct field tests to evaluate function and effectiveness
  • Construct devices using materials intended for actual operations
  • Demonstrate viability of any ancillary operations intended to complement fish removal (e.g., disposal, or distribution as part of supply chain for restaurant use)

Deliverables include:

  • Prototype
  • Field test results
  • Operational device built with final materials
  • Disposal or distribution plan.

NOTE: Even though a prototype may be required to be delivered for the project, it is important to note that this prototype is still the property of the offeror. NOAA would only do field or lab testing on that product to see its feasibility in a production (or development) environment.

 

Subtopic 8.2.3D Sensor System for Measuring Oxygen Demands in Natural Waters

Summary: Occurrences of large volumes of hypoxic or anoxic waters, also known as “dead zones”, are widespread in the United States, including the Gulf of Mexico, the Great Lakes, the Chesapeake Bay, the Long Island Sound, and coastal waters off Oregon and Washington. A capability to monitor and forecast the locations of these dead zones is highly desired from the standpoint of ecosystem and water quality management. Satellite optical remote sensing is a promising tool to build such a capability because light absorption and scattering by oxygen-consuming organic matter is detectable from space. Establishing direct linkages between the optical signatures of these organic materials and their oxygen consumption is currently hindered by the lack of adequate and user-friendly instruments for routine and quick response measurements of oxygen consumption in natural water bodies. Such instrumentation would greatly facilitate NOAA’s development of remote-sensing algorithms for monitoring, forecasting, and managing aquatic ecosystems and water quality.

Project Goals: NOAA is requesting proposals for a field instrument system equipped with sensors capable of simultaneously and directly (not by proxy) measuring biochemical oxygen demand (BOD) and chemical oxygen demand (COD) in both freshwater and marine environments. Once developed, data-acquisition should be achievable in both stationary and profiling modes, and the system should be accurate, rugged, reliable, portable, low-cost, quick-response, anti-foulant, submersible to ~100 m, and easy to deploy from a variety of platforms (e.g., land, zodiac, small research vessel).

Phase I Activities and Expected Deliverables:

Activities include:

  • Research and technology development for a proof-of-concept BOD/COD sensor system.

Deliverables include:

  • A detailed proof-of-concept report describing research results and technology development completed for a BOD/COD sensor system, and
  • A description of where the principal investigator expects the project to be at the end of Phase II, including a description of how this sensor system will be commercialized.

Phase II Activities and Expected Deliverables:

Activities include:

  • Development of a prototype system;
  • Lab calibration of the prototype system; and
  • Demonstration field tests of the prototype system. Build prototype to test operational characteristics

Deliverables include:

  • A prototype system calibrated in the lab which demonstrates the success of the research / technology development;
  • A detailed report on the results of demonstration field deployments in both modes (stationary and profile) of the prototype system; and
  • A thorough plan, including a timeline, describing the transition of this prototype system into the commercial marketplace

NOTE: Even though a prototype may be required to be delivered for the project, it is important to note that this prototype is still the property of the offeror. NOAA would only do field or lab testing on that product to see its feasibility in a production (or development) environment.

 

Subtopic: 8.2.4D Innovative Multi-Platform Sensor for Marine Debris and Object Detection and Mapping

Summary: Detecting and mapping objects and debris in our oceans, coastal areas and marine navigation routes has been a difficult problem. Advancements in sensor and measurement technologies are drastically needed. Marine debris and pollutants pose significant navigational and environmental threats. The tsunami on March 11, 2011 making landfall in Japan produced 5 million tons of debris in the ocean, and it is believed that more than 1 million tons of debris are still floating. This debris significantly threatens marine navigation and coastal environments. As the downhill flow rate of the Greenland glaciers further increases (doubled in the last decade), a larger number of icebergs are being calved. With the warming trend in ocean temperatures, these icebergs are melting at a faster rate and calving to produce smaller icebergs that are more difficult to detect. The same is occurring in the southern ocean. Wind and ocean currents are transporting these icebergs into shipping routes, posing significant threat to marine navigation. With the warming trend, sea ice is also changing affecting navigational paths. Routine monitoring of these changes is urgently needed. Melting sea ice also plays a role in climate change. Accurate knowledge of sea ice extent and location is needed for climate studies and forecasting. Accidents at sea, be it marine vessels, cargo or aircraft, require an ability to rapidly search large regions for debris in order to focus search & rescue and recovery resources. Identifying the location of the debris allows the search & rescue area to be reduced significantly and thereby improving chances of finding survivors, minimizing cargo loss and reducing costs in these efforts. NOAA seeks innovative sensor and measurement technology that can be deployed from manned and unmanned ships and aircraft, as well as satellite platforms in the future, that can provide accurate detection and mapping of marine debris and objects over large swath / coverage areas.

Project Goals: This project seeks an innovative sensor and measurement approach for detecting and mapping debris and objects in our oceans, coastal areas and marine navigational routes. The sensor should be deployable from manned and unmanned marine vessels and aircraft; provide wide swath coverage; and the measurement technique can be applied from a spaceborne platform in the future.

Phase I Activities and Expected Deliverables

Activities include:

  • Define measurement and operational requirements for applications discussed above in the project summary. These should include specific requirements that each type of platform (e.g. marine vessel, aircraft, manned, unmanned, etc.) will place on the final sensor and measurement technique.
  • Develop and define measurement concept(s), sensor concept and system specifications.
  • Develop preliminary system design to meets above requirements and specifications.
  • Determine measurement performance in terms of final geophysical parameters, spatial coverage and temporal coverage.
  • Determine feasibility and cost to build prototype and estimate operational costs of a Phase 3 system for each type of platform (spaceborne excluded).
  • Identify commercial applications / market spaces and potential revenue from the product (maybe sensor itself and/or data products it produces) developed based on the system developed through the SBIR.

Deliverables include:

  • Requirements Definitions.
  • Sensor Concept and Preliminary System Design.
  • Performance, Feasibility, Cost Analysis.
  • Commercial Application Analysis.
  • Final Report.

Phase II Activities and Expected Deliverables:

Activities include:

  • Develop detailed system design for Phase II prototype system.
  • Perform full system performance analysis and determined compliance with requirements and specifications from Phase I.
  • Develop test / verification plan for evaluating Phase II prototype performance.
  • Fabricate Phase II prototype system.
  • Execute performance / verification testing.
  • If possible within the funding scope of the Phase II, execute small demonstration experiment exhibiting the performance of the sensor in a real-world environment.
  • Identify commercial products and market space being addressed by the technology developed through this effort.

Deliverables include:

  • Performance Analysis Report.
  • Test/Verification Plan
  • Performance Testing Report
  • Phase II Prototype System.
  • Commercial / Market Analysis Report.

NOTE: Even though a prototype may be required to be delivered for the project, it is important to note that this prototype is still the property of the offeror. NOAA would only do field or lab testing on that product to see its feasibility in a production (or development) environment

 

Subtopic 8.2.5R Autonomous direct measure of carbonate ion in saline waters

Summary: Chemical changes in seawater result from the uptake of carbon dioxide (CO2) either as a result of rising atmospheric CO2 levels (i.e. ocean acidification), or as a result of enhanced respiration particularly within coastal waters. These changes include increasing concentrations of dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC), the production of carbonic acid (e.g. acidification), an increase in the partial pressure of seawater CO2, and shifts in the ratio of bicarbonate to carbonate ion availability whereby carbonate ion concentration decline with increasing CO2 levels. How these changes affect marine life is a prominent issue for contemporary oceanography and marine resource management. Geological evidence reveals dramatic changes in marine life as a consequence of past events where similar rates of CO2 increase occurred and experimental studies indicate that a broad range of contemporary taxa are sensitive to such changes. Documentation of the chemical changes accompanying ocean acidification is a key element in acquiring the environmental intelligence needed to foster a resilient society. Carbonate ion concentration is a particularly important variable with regards to ocean acidification as a number of important impacts to marine calcifiers are often attributed to its decrease. However, rather than being directly measured, carbonate ion is generally calculated from two of the four major CO2 system parameters: pH, pCO2, DIC, and total alkalinity resulting in a propagation of error associated with the two measured parameters as well as the dissociation constants used to solve the carbonic acid system from them. Direct measurement using existing ion selective electrodes (ISE) significantly lack the sensitivity or precision needed for marine science or monitoring applications. Spectrophotometric methods are available remain laborious and not available at this time for autonomous applications. There is an emergent need for an accurate direct determination of carbonate ion with a precision of ±5 μM that is suitable for autonomous applications including sustained deployments and in experimental research applications.

Project Goals: This project will provide the field with an autonomous direct measure of carbonate ion concentration with suitable precision and accuracy for marine monitoring and research applications. The new Method will be useful to a wide range of users (e.g., marine resource managers, environmental monitoring entities, aquaculturist, fisheries, etc.) and would prove immensely valuable in assessing the impact of ocean acidification on the health of the marine ecosystem. Other applications would include clinical chemistry whereby the most important buffer of plasma is the bicarbonate/carbonic acid pair due to the important role CO2 plays on the regulating plasma pH.

Phase I Activities and Expected Deliverables

Activities include:

  • Investigate technical feasibility of the proposed new technique
  • Demonstrate that the new method works in seawater
  • Demonstrate that the proposed new technique will provide high sensitivity and high precision measurements of carbonate ion concentration

Deliverables include:

  • Theoretical proof or/and practical testing results
  • Comprehensive and detailed proposal outlining the research tackled in Phase II
  • Provide a cost analysis for Phase II and future operational systems.

Phase II Activities and Expected Deliverables:

Activities include:

  • Test the new technique.
  • Design a prototype using the new technology
  • Demonstration of the proposed technology

Deliverables include:

  • Provide test results proving the success of the new technique.
  • Deliver a prototype using the new technology
  • Comprehensive report outlining the research in detail
  • Plan to commercialize the final product
  • A Company presentation to the SBIR Panel

NOTE: Even though a prototype may be required to be delivered for the project, it is important to note that this prototype is still the property of the offeror. NOAA would only do field or lab testing on that product to see its feasibility in a production (or development) environment

 

Subtopic 8.2.6R Laser-Based Analyzer for Methane, Carbon and Hydrogen Isotopic Measurements in the Deep Sea

Summary: Development of laser-based sensors that are capable of measuring chemical species (gases and isotopes) will greatly enhancing the ability to understand biogeochemical processes in a range of ocean environments from the deep sea to coastal environments. Laser-based platforms can provide highly sensitive and precise measurements and be designed to target isotopic species. Laser-based platforms are particularly well suited to gas and stable isotope measurements but currently are large in size and have power requirements limiting the ability to deploy them in the deep sea. The development of smaller, more compact, and less power-hungry instruments will allow new in situ studies of biogeochemical processes in the ocean, including surveys of hydrate-hosting continental shelf sediments or hydrothermal vent settings. Other advances will come from the utilization of different lasers, different sensing schemes, new detectors, and targeting a variety of chemical species. Atmospheric sensors exist that utilize laser-based spectroscopy for such gases as methane, CO2, and N2O. Many such sensors are currently being used for surface water analysis, but very limited work has been done to push the technology into submersible sensors.

Project Goals: New laser-based sensors that can be deployed on a variety of platforms, such as ROV’s, AUV’s and seafloor observatories are needed to understand biogeochemical processes and the carbon cycle in the deep sea. Technology advancements to decrease sensor size, power requirements and sensor accuracy are needed. Other areas of technology innovation will come from advancing gas extraction techniques, targeting a range of gases, utilizing new sensing schemes, and using novel lasers and detectors.

Phase I Activities and Expected Deliverables:

Activities include

  • Identify key challenges for sensor design
  • Execute research and development of sensor design including identifying target gas species, package size and power requirements Deliverables include
  • Proof of concept
  • Report showing promise for commercial application of developed technology/techniques

Phase II Activities and Expected Deliverables:

Activities include

  • Design and build prototype
  • Test prototype in ocean environment

Deliverables include

  • Detailed report on developed sensor technology showing sensitivity, precision, and accuracy and reliability with calibrations

NOTE: Even though a prototype may be required to be delivered for the project, it is important to note that this prototype is still the property of the offeror. NOAA would only do field or lab testing on that product to see its feasibility in a production (or development) environment

References:

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  • Yvon-Lewis S. A., Hu L. and Kessler J. (2011) Methane flux to the atmosphere from the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster. Geophysical Research Letters 38. doi: 10.1029/2010GL045928
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