Autonomous Underwater Vehicle Mission Complete
The Autonomous Underwater Vehicle, or AUV, brought to Lake Ontario by the Great Lakes Research Consortium at SUNY-ESF, Great Lakes Observing System, and New York Sea Grant for an intensive data collection mission completed its mission Thursday – with the exception of reaching shore.
AUV Mechanical Technician Russ Miller from the Cooperative Institute of Limnology and Ecosystems Research at the University of Michigan Ann Arbor triangulates the signal from the AUV from aboard the TowBoatUS retrieval boat provided by the Port Authority of Oswego. Photo courtesy of New York Sea Grant
The AUVs are often retrieved by boat, so, when the AUV battery power ran out after making the turn for shore, the project partners called on the Port Authority of Oswego for retrieval assistance.
The Port Authority is believed to be the only Port Authority in the U.S. to offer the TowBoatUS towing, salvage and marine assistance service.
The AUV was safely back on shore by 6 p.m. after 10 hours in the lake collecting thousands of datapoints for analysis of nearshore-offshore interactions related to the thermal bar – a seasonal temperature barrier.
The 42-pound, 6-foot-long submarine-shaped instrument uses side-scan sonar and a full payload of sensors to collect data on temperature, turbidity, depth, pH, current, oxygen levels, nutrient levels, and other factors.
From left: AUV Mechanical Technician Russ Miller from the Cooperative Institute of Limnology and Ecosystems Research at the University of Michigan Ann Arbor, Port Authority of Oswego TowBoatUS Captain Bernie Bacon, and Great Lakes Research Consortium Director Dr. Greg Boyer of SUNY-ESF with the AUV returning to shore.
Photo courtesy of New York Sea Grant
OSWEGO, NY – Exploring the waters of Lake Ontario has gone hi-tech.
Before it could be launched, the AUV had to be carefully lowered to the shore.
An autonomous underwater vehicle was in Lake Ontario shortly after 8 a.m. today (May 17) for an approximately 7-hour mission. The high-tech, remote-controlled equipment will produce intensive data for analysis of nearshore-offshore interactions, fish productivity in Lake Ontario, changes to the lower food web, and algal abundance.
As of 4:45 p.m., it was heading back to shore.
Russ Miller, AUV operator, Great Lakes Observing System (GLOS) Regional Association, described the unit and its mission.
Mike Satchwell, senior research specialist with SUNY ESF, helped Miller deploy the unit into the lake.
Dr. Greg Boyer helps explain the AUV’s design and mission as Russ Miller prepares the unit for launch
“This isn’t that long of a mission. So, he probably has it set about as fast as it will go to collect data,” he said.
The 42-pound AUV is 6.5-feet long and resembles a small torpedo.
It has side scan sonar, multiple sensor payloads, 10 Beam Doppler Velocity Log for bottom tracking, and EcoMapper technology for high-resolution water quality monitoring, Miller said.
The 2013 mission in Lake Ontario will focus on measuring water temperature, organic matter in the water and algal abundance, he said.
The AUV generates data to computer chip, including 3-dimensional survey maps on such factors as temperature, turbidity, depths, pH, current, video images, oxygen levels, phosphorus/etc. levels, conductivity, and more. Miller monitors the information on shore from his laptop.
Mike Satchwell launches the AUV under the watchful eye of Russ Miller, center, and Dr. Greg Boyer.
“It’s going to be collecting data every second it’s out there. If it gets in trouble, it is smart enough to know to come back to the surface and go home,” Miller said.
The AUV’s mission in Lake Ontario is high-tech monitoring of how the thermal bar – a seasonal/spring temperature barrier – impacts nutrients in nearshore aquatic environment.
“This research is conducted as part of the Cooperative Science Monitoring Initiative between the US and Canada called for under the Clean Water Act of 1972, explained research leader Dr. Greg Boyer, chair of the SUNY ESF Department of Chemistry and director of Great Lakes Research Consortium. “Once every five years, the CSMI rotates through the five Great Lakes to conduct intensive monitoring activities; 2013 is Lake Ontario’s year. The focus now has shifted from the offshore waters to nearshore-offshore interactions, fish productivity in Lake Ontario, and changes to the lower food web.”
Data collected in 2013 will be evaluated with original survey data collected in 2008 (NYS Dept of Environmental Conservation Nearshore Nutrient Study).
In 2008, they discovered there was a thermal barrier, which was forming right across the mouth of the river. It is a seasonal/spring temperature barrier that impacts nutrients in nearshore aquatic environment.
“That was blocking nutrients from going off shore, trapping them on the beaches,” Dr. Boyer explained. “The problem with 2008 is we saw it once and then the weather changed and we couldn’t get back out there because the weather was so rough. What we’re doing this year is bringing in an autonomous underwater vehicle and it will go on four locations up and down the lake; looking for the formation of that thermal barrier.”
Russ Miller plots the AUV’s underwater course
The Great Lakes represent a huge and valuable ecosystem, natural environment, economic engine, recreational resource and public water supply, he said.
To help drive policies related to the system, scientists are studying the dynamics of the individual lakes and Great Lakes Basin in its entirety. Technology facilitates the gathering and analysis of intense biological, chemical, geological, and other data.
The AUV will be able to collect more than 100 times the data collected in the 2008 study, Dr. Boyer said.
“It’s pretty exciting. It’s really cool technology. We can program to go around, it’s fun to see it go,” he said. “The autonomous underwater vehicles represent the next wave in environmental sampling of our Great Lakes. No longer do we need to put two people in a boat and send them out for a day putting instruments in and out of the water. We can program these AUVs to leave from shore, go out, travel up and down in the water column, collecting thousands of data points and then return home.”
New York Sea Grant has provided funding for several research projects by Dr. Boyer, including a current project on algal bloom in Sodus Bay, the results of which will help natural resource managers and marina operators.
The AUV launched earlier this week at Sodus Bay, Rochester and Oak Orchard.
This AUV visit to Lake Ontario is made available through the Great Lakes Observing System with support from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Region 2, New York’s Great Lakes Research Consortium member schools, i.e., SUNY Colleges at Brockport and Oswego and the College of Environment Science and Forestry in Syracuse; and New York Sea Grant.
Dave White with New York Sea Grant at SUNY Oswego, left, watches as Russ Miller checks the data on his laptop. At right is Dr. Greg Boyer.
“The Great Lakes system forms a unique ecosystem, natural environment, economic engine, recreational resource, and public water supply. The evolution of technology greatly facilitates the scientific study of the dynamics of the individual lakes and the Great Lakes Basin in its entirety. This first-time underwater research on Lake Ontario provides the opportunity to synthesize intense biological, chemical, geological, and other data for use by multiple stakeholder groups from natural resource and fisheries managers to marina operators and angler associations,” said Coastal Recreation and Tourism Specialist Dave White with New York Sea Grant at SUNY Oswego.
It’s the first time the unit has been in Lake Ontario, he said, adding, “So, we have all the issues of their first time deployment.”
“Probably most of the summer we will be working on the data,” Dr. Boyer said. “At this stage, what we’re trying to figure out is does this barrier really form, and if it does, that changes our thinking a little bit in terms of how nutrients move from the river, the watershed to the offshore.”
The focus this year is on offshore fisheries, White said.
The AUV glides beneath the waves as it begins its mission
“The algal bloom has become a critical issue in Sodus Bay and other areas. It is a visible economic impact; in Sodus the past three years, they have had major algal blooms. People don’t want to swim in it, they don’t want to boat in it, they don’t want to go to the restaurants. So it really begins to have an economic impact,” White pointed out. “It’s one of the thing that this piece will be looking at. Is that (thermal) barrier stopping things from going out into the lake and keeping them at the near-shore? Offshore vessels can’t get into the near-shore. So the AUV adds a really important piece to the research.”
A bouy (Great Lakes Observing System) was also deployed on Thursday right off the Oswego Harbor area – a real time data buoy. People will be able to go online 24/7 and read the data coming off that buoy. There will be one off Rochester, Sodus and Oneida Lake,” White said.
“It’ll send back data in real time that can be accessed online,” Dr. Boyer added. “We’ll be able to see what is going on right at the time it is happening. You can track different things across the system.”
Learn more at www.nyglrc.info