A new tech start-up have developed specialised submarines which they hope can create a ‘waterview’ of our oceans in a similar way to google maps street view. If successful it could change the way we explore the underwater world.
The ‘street view’ feature on google maps is easily one of the most helpful features you can use when visiting a new place for the first time. Plus it’s quite fun to be able to explore the world through your laptop screen when you’re really bored. But soon we might also be able to explore the seafloor in a very similar way. Thanks to a new autonomous submarine developed by Australian tech start-up UAM Tec (Underwater Autonomous Mapping). It was created in a bid to finally map and explore more of the deep ocean. Which could happen very soon after the first test was successfully completed last month. When it is fully operational UAM’s ‘Waterview’ could have countless benefits for marine science and conservation.
The company behind the subs and underwater mapping are Australian based start-up UAM Tec. Co-founders Benjamin Flemming and Shawn Taylor began their journey into the deep because of how little of our oceans we have managed to explore. 71% of the Earth’s surface is covered by the sea and yet less than 5% of that has been properly mapped out. Benjamin Flemming told Entrepreneur that “the fact that we know more about space than we do about our own oceans is unacceptable with today’s technology”. UAM Tec aim to fix that problem by using their own technology to enhance our understanding of the underwater world. To do this they not only created an advanced autonomous submarine, but also the technology to create a 360o map of the seafloor that will be available for everybody to access.
After years of work and 3 different iterations the UAM Tec V4 submarine was finished earlier this year. It is without a doubt one of the most advanced autonomous underwater vehicles ever created. At just over a metre in length it may not look like much, but it is packed to the brim with some really cool technology. It has 22 on-board cameras giving it a 360o field of vision. With specialised LED lights which can light up the dark ocean at up to 300m depth. It is airtight, corrosion resistant and able to withstand high pressures and electromagnetic interference. Its powerful lithium battery keeps it running for up to 40 hours allowing for over 100km of travelling. When it does start to run low it then automatically returning to its station to recharge. The first UAM V4 sub was successfully launched on Tuesday 22 October 2019, diving into Port Phillip Bay in Melbourne. Check out a video of the launch and the team behind it below.
The next step is to launch more submarines to create an advanced fleet capable of creating a single online map. That map will be called Waterview and is made possible by UAM’s ‘submapping’ technology. When fully operational each submarine will receive instructions via satellite, undertake its mapping objectives, ascend to a station to recharge and upload data back to the satellites before receiving its next instructions and starting all over again. This system relies on a specialised designed stations where the subs can recharge and upload their data simultaneously. Both onshore and mobile offshore stations allow the submarines to go wherever they are needed. UAM’s specialised artificial intelligence will then take the data received by satellite and stitch it into a single 3D map as well as 360o video footage which can be turned into virtual reality.
The potentially benefits of Waterview are almost endless and could help us in ways that its founders didn’t even consider when they started out. Not only will it give us a detailed look at parts of our planet we have never even seen. It will also allow us to discover new marine species, better understand existing ones and track climate change. Given time it could even help locate wreckages of boats and planes and help in search and rescue missions. As the technology improves there may be no limit to how much of our oceans the submarines can show us. But most importantly it will make accessing and learning about the ocean so much easier for everyone which co-founder Benjamin Flemming believes will help us “live in better harmony with our planet”.