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The Alfred Wegener Institute

How Alfred Wenger Institute used CATHX OCEAN’s subsea imaging systems, measurement technology and software to survey large areas of seabed, track year-on-year changes to the abyssal seafloor and investigate spacial population density of fauna in the Fram Strait.

The Alfred Wegener Institute, located in Bremerhaven, Germany, conducts research in the Arctic, the Antarctic, and the high and mid-latitude oceans. They were looking for technology to eradicate the challenges associated with seafloor surveys, including poor visibility, slow survey times, accurate geolocation, measuring changes in the fauna and seafloor over time, and investigating spatial population density.


Alfred Wegener Institute

The Objectives

  • Survey abyssal seafloor area year-on-year to see changes in the fauna and abyssal seafloor over time.
  • Investigate the spatial population density in The Fram Strait.
  • Overcome poor visibility and slow survey times when conducting seafloor surveys.
  • To provide high-quality visual image data.

System Configuration

  • A Cathx Fast Fly Stills Camera
  • Two Cathx Pulsar I Strobe Lighting Systems
  • Integrated into the Bluefin-21 AUV
  • Cathx Mission Planner Software
  • SOLID Post Processing Image software.

The Challenges

The Alfred Wenger Institute had not found sufficient technology to annually capture the same area of the abyssal seafloor to monitor year-on-year changes to fauna and the seafloor. They had also never previously been able to complete a spatial population investigation of The Fram Strait.

Traditionally, the Alfred Wegener Institute has carried out subsea surveys using a towed underwater vehicle at FRAM stations. These surveys, reliant on ship motion, only provided thin tracks of data, allowing for a ribbon of 2 meters wide of images to be collected over several kilometres.

Issues such as lack of sufficient light, motion blur and particle backscatter can severely reduce the quality of the images collected. It also takes more time to survey the area leading to longer vessel time and higher operating costs.

The Solution

CATHX OCEAN provided Alfred Wenger Institute with a Cathx Fast-Fly Camera and Pulsar Strobe Lighting system integrated into their Bluefin-21 AUV, delivered quality images and geolocation data of the abyssal seafloor under the polar ice. The CATHX system captured accurate data to track year-year changes to fauna and the seafloor and to conduct a spatial population investigation in The Fram Strait.

The Fast-Fly Camera and Pulsar Strobe Light system designed to provide ultra high-resolution images allowed the vehicle to fly in proximity to the seafloor for an improved dive plan. A more extensive area to be photographed in a similar amount of time.

Navigation and GPS information is stored in the image EXIF by the CATHX imaging system allowing for the same area of the seafloor to be covered year-on-year allowing for both spatial and temporal analysis. The Alfred Wegener Institute were able to build a profile of the ecosystem and monitor trends over time. Relationships between the fauna and features on the seafloor like dropstones, phytodetritus accumulations and litter could now be accurately determined.

The Results

The results speak for themselves.

Higher Quality Images with Extended Range
The Cathx Fast Fly camera system delivered high quality, clear images at Ultra High (UHD) resolutions of below one millimeter. The Pulsar Strobe lighting with the Cathx Fast-Fly Camera reduced motion blur and backscatter. It allowed the vehicle to travel at higher speeds than conventional Video Systems. The Fast-Fly camera could focus according to inputs from the vehicle depth sensors ensuring that all images acquired were sharp and clear. The high-quality imaging also permitted accurate mapping of the abyssal seafloor, and investigation of the spatial population density in The Fram Strait.

Improved Data Outputs for Year-on-Year Comparisons
The Fast-Fly Imaging system captured sequential image data that was time stamped and geo-tagged. This facilitated post data processing to assemble mosaics, and this data is also compatible with third party inspection software. Visual information is stored directly to the vehicle data storage NAS drive allowing for accurate year-on-year comparisons to see changes in the fauna and abyssal seafloor over time.

Reduced Vessel Time and co2 Emissions
The vehicle flew within 5 meters of the seabed at operational speeds of 4 knots, so the time taken to acquire data was considerably quicker. It allowed for a more extensive area of the seabed to be surveyed and saved vessel time, resources and co2 emissions.

Improved Mission Planning
Cathx Mission Planner Software was used pre-mission to set up the Fast Fly imaging system for the mission ahead by setting up a profile that the imaging system can activate in real-time on mission via the Camera API.

Seafloor Survey
Bluefin-21 AUV
Subsea technology
Subsea image
Improved Data Outputs