RS Aqua Wins Funding to Develop AI to Protect Marine Mammals and the Environment
Ocean science technology innovator RS Aqua has won funding to develop a new system to monitor the underwater environment. Collaborating with the University of Southampton and funded by Innovate UK, the UK’s innovation agency, the MARLIN project will develop an underwater sensor that uses machine learning to identify harmful environmental activities and transmits information in real time to a web app.
For the first time, this will allow stakeholders to remotely monitor the underwater environment and make decisions in real time.
MARLIN will develop several new technologies: new machine learning techniques to distinguish between ambient and unusual environmental noise (such as marine mammals), new real-time data connections suitable for the remote ocean, and a new user-friendly interface.
Ultimately, this system will enable the remote monitoring of animal, human and environmental activity anywhere in the ocean. It will enable better conservation of marine mammals (whales and dolphins) during offshore wind farm construction. It will also detect illegal fishing activities, leading to better protection of our fishing grounds and marine protected areas, safeguarding these for generations to come.
Dr. Ryan Mowat, Research Director at RS Aqua, explains “This technology will revolutionize how we scientifically monitor our ocean environment. Currently we have to leave instruments underwater for months at a time and recover them before accessing their data. MARLIN will get that data to the internet in real time, and its implications are huge. It will help ensure that offshore construction is sensitive to marine mammal activity and will enable the monitoring of marine protected areas through the real time recognition of illegal fishing activity.”
Professor of Statistical Signal Processing Paul White, from the University of Southampton, said: "Using the power of artificial intelligence to monitor sound in the underwater world, combined with the ability to rapidly relay information ashore, will enable us to provide tools to protect fragile marine ecosystems and detect a range of illegal activities."
MARLIN will provide a sustainable and cost-effective method of ocean monitoring, which could play an important role in growing the blue ocean economy. Currently, large marine vessels often need to be used for ocean monitoring missions. Remote real time monitoring systems like MARLIN will reduce the need for ship time at sea, potentially reducing vessel CO2 emissions by up to 75%.*
“The announcement of this significant funding is fantastic news for RS Aqua and for the ocean technology community.” says Martin Stemp, Managing Director at RS Aqua “Innovate UK recognized the potential of RS Aqua’s ideas to use cutting edge machine learning techniques to improve our understanding of ocean activities, and to better protect the environment”.
Project MARLIN is managed by RS Aqua in collaboration with the University of Southampton and is funded by the UK’s innovation agency, Innovate UK. The project was launched on 1st July, 2023, when the Innovate UK funding was formally confirmed.
*CO2 estimates based on a multi-role survey vessel on a three-week monitoring mission, assuming 900,000 liters are used every 23 days.