A WAM-V autonomous surface vehicle (ASV) manufactured by Marine Advanced Robotics has been used by the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS), in partnership with Queensland University of Technology, to conduct an acoustic and optical survey of John Brewer Reef in the Great Barrier Reef system of North-Eastern Australia.
The project was initiated in order to evaluate the use of ASVs and AIMS’ Reefscan machine vision camera system to conduct autonomous shallow water bathymetric surveys and optical surveys for reef health assessments. The WAM-V ASV was launched and recovered from AIMS’ research vessel RV Cape Ferguson. The WAM-V ASV enabled shallow water surveys and close approaches to sensitive areas.
The WAM-V ASV provided the ability to collect useful data in the deeper water sections of the reef as well as across the reef flat. All Reefscan data was timestamped and georeferenced with the data, and then analyzed using machine learning models to give percent cover of the main benthic communities.
Paul Rigby, from the AIMS Technology Development Group, commented: “The trial demonstrated that ASVs such as the WAM-V in particular, due to its shallow draft and stability, have the potential to be a game changer for our operations, by complementing our traditional diver-based survey methods with essential image and structural base maps. Such autonomous technologies will allow us to scale what we do, in spatial and temporal terms, and enhance our ability to measure and understand change without increasing demands on scientific field staff.”
Mark Gundersen, President & CEO of Marine Advanced Robotics, stated: “The work that AIMS does is absolutely critical to understanding the impacts of climate change on critical habitats like the Great Barrier Reef. We are proud that the WAM-V technology was able to provide new capabilities in this ongoing effort and we look forward to future campaigns of this important combination of cutting-edge technologies.”