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MainOne Wins Contract for African Research Network

The EU-funded AfricaConnect2 project has just announced that, following the tender call to connect West and Central (W&C) Africa back in June 2016, GÉANT has awarded a 15-year contract to MainOne for connectivity services. By signing the contract through AfricaConnect2, WACREN, the regional Research and Education Network in West and Central Africa, will join the global Research and Education (R&E) networking community. In addition to that, a complementary contract was signed with XON Systems for the provision of equipment.

Global Marine Systems Limited has successfully completed a complex, subsea installation project for Ocean Networks Canada on their NEPTUNE ocean observatory off the West coast of Vancouver Island. 

An initiative of the University of Victoria, Ocean Networks Canada (ONC) monitors ocean environments off the west and east coasts of Canada and the Arctic for scientific research, society, and industry. One of these observatories is NEPTUNE, a subsea system that comprises of an 815km loop of fiber optic cable, which connects a number of instrument sites that undertake monitoring across a wide range of ocean environments. Global Marine’s remit included the installation of four fiber optic cables with associated subsea plant on each end (mudmats).

The first phase of the project, which involved some cable recovery, was completed in October 2015; whilst the second phase that has just been completed; it presented a far greater engineering challenge. This required positioning the eight mudmats, each weighing approximately 1.8 tons with great precision in water depths ranging from 1,240 to 2,320 metres. This challenging project relied on the skill and experience of the officers and crew of the Wave Venture, who worked in combination with a second exploration vessel, Nautilus, who used its deep water ROV, Hercules, to provide touchdown monitoring of the mudmats and then connected them to the nodes and other instruments. Thanks to a high level of pre-project engineering planning and solution design, Wave Venture required only a single voyage to install the four cables and undertake some other related work.

“On behalf of Ocean Networks Canada we would like to extend a large thank you to the Wave Venture crew for their efforts and professionalism, as well as the Global Marine support team” said Ian Kulin, Associate Director, Marine Operations at ONC. “Working with the Wave Venture and the Nautilus, all planned work was completed successfully.” As a result, ONC’s top goals for 2016 were achieved.

John Walters, Director, Maintenance at Global Marine added, “This project required extensive planning by Ocean Networks Canada and Global Marine, all credit to the shipboard teams on Nautilus and Wave Venture who implemented those plans very well indeed. The outcome is testament to the versatility of Wave Venture and the North America Zone; it is not often offshore cable repair vessels are mobilized to handle mudmats and scientific nodes. We are delighted to have played our part in the reinstatement and expansion of the NEPTUNE observatory.”

Within the same voyage as the NEPTUNE cable installations, Global Marine also successfully completed an operation to reinstate connectivity to ONC’s Barkley Canyon Node under the North America Zone cable maintenance contract. This work firstly saw the Barkley Canyon spur cable recovered with the assistance of Hercules, before Global Marine experts jointed it to the 75m tail of the Barkley Canyon node, which was also on board Wave Venture having been previously recovered.

The node itself is housed inside a protective Trawl Resistant Frame (TRF), which weighs approximately 9.2 tons in total, and this was then deployed to the seabed approximately 12m from the Hydrates cable frame in 640m of water, and subsequently plugged into the node by Hercules. Next, the Upper Slope Science cable was recovered ready for ONC technicians to re- terminate. Once terminated, this was then redeployed to within the required 20m range of the node, and also plugged in by Hercules.  The successfully completed maintenance operations by Global Marine have reconnected scientific instruments, which had been out of action as a result of suspected trawl fishing activity since January 2015.

By: Don Cuddy, South Coast Today

Sometimes a chat over the fence is all it takes to set great things in motion.

Fairhaven, Massachusetts resident Karl Edminster was talking with his neighbor, marine researcher Emily Keiley, when she mentioned that the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth School for Marine Science & Technology (SMAST) had an underwater cable that had suffered damage on a fisheries survey cruise. She knew Karl’s job had something to do with electrical work. He said he’d take a look.

In fact, Karl is president of Electromechanica, a high-tech design-and build engineering outfit based in Mattapoisett. They spliced the cable.

“But we told them we do more than fix cables,” Karl told me. In fact, the perfectly anonymous space the company occupies in the Mattapoisett industrial park produces an array of highly sophisticated devices for an impressive list of clients.

The damaged cable belonged to an underwater camera system that SMAST researchers were using to assess the health of the sea scallop biomass.

“It had older low-resolution analog cameras and a digital still camera that they lowered and triggered remotely,” Karl said. This meant that scientists could not see the images until the cameras were retrieved.

Electromechanica proposed building SMAST a more effective system incorporating a fiber optic link. “That way they could capture all the data in high resolution in real time,” he said.

It was an offer too good to pass up, so electromechanical engineer Adam Robert’s career entered uncharted waters as he accompanied the SMAST team on research trips to install and test the improved design on the sea floor. It has been working well, he reports.

SMAST CableElectromechanica, Inc. teamed with the researchers of the Marine Fisheries Field Research Group to develop the Underwater Vision Acquisition System (UVAS). All data and video is fed up to the ship via a 10Gb fiber optic link to provide real time data.

“They needed a flat image to measure scallops and the ethernet cameras we use are pretty good at that,” he said.

The system transmits video from a large camera while collecting images and data from a DSC (digital still camera) and the resolution has improved exponentially. With the Electromechanica software, each time the camera pyramid is lowered to the sea bed, the GPS coordinates, water depth and temperature are automatically recorded and stored to a data base, eliminating the need for manual entry into logbooks and the possibility of human error.

“It’s so cool that was can take this hundreds of years old industry and apply the leading edge of technology to it,” Karl said.

Exposure to the region’s fishing industry and associated marine research has opened up new avenues for the company, Karl said. Electromechanica is now working with groundfishermen, designing and building cameras that can be attached to their trawl gear so they can see what and how much is actually going into the net, in real time, while they are towing. This technology is still in the developmental stage but the goal is commercial application.

“Fishermen are burning a lot of diesel when they are towing and they need to know if they are making money,” Karl said. Currently fishermen have sensors on the trawl doors and net that let them know the gear is towing correctly. “But with a live feed they could monitor the catch from the wheelhouse. If they ran into a bunch of cod or some other species for which the quotas are low, they could haul back and eliminate or reduce unwanted bycatch,” he said.

Some fishermen are attaching GoPro cameras on their nets, but these are analog. Electromechanica is working to manufacture a fiber-optic system.

“I can’t say enough about the professionalism of the fishermen that we’ve worked with and how eager they are to embrace new technology,” Karl said. “I was a bit concerned about that at first but they have been fantastic.”

Electromechanica was launched in 2001 from a chicken barn in Freetown after Karl left his job at Sippican (now Lockheed Martin). “It was self-financed and my partner, Steve Piché, and I just invested forward and grew it from there,” he said. They moved to Mattapoisett in 2010 and now have 10,000 square feet of shop space.

“People would never believe what goes on in this little corner of Mattapoisett. We are a major supplier to the transit industry and build a lot of test equipment for MBTA and New York Metro,” Karl said. “We do work for IBM and Amazon. We developed a robot for the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington that inspects pipes on warships for corrosion. Essentially we produce test equipment that allows the tech to find the problem faster.”

Electromechanica has a full in-house CNC (computer numeric control) shop so the company can design and manufacture its own parts. This was invaluable in producing a camera system tough enough to withstand the harsh underwater conditions on Georges Bank, in addition to surviving frequent poundings against the steel hull of a fishing vessel as the gear was lowered over the side in a seaway.

Whatever comes down the pike, or across the fence next door, Electromechanica seems ready to accept the challenge.

“It’s a lot of fun, a lot of innovation, a lot of challenges,” Karl said. “It’s not all rosy but we get to work with a lot of great people like Kevin Stokesbury and his crew at SMAST and with things constantly evolving we look forward to working with them again.”

Source

Robotic underwater Seagliders used by the Oban-based Scottish Association for Marine Science have now gathered the equivalent of five years of oceanographic data, most of which was collected in the past 18 months.

This milestone, which was reached today, highlights a major change in how marine scientists collect information such as sea temperature, salinity, pressure and oxygen, as the six-feet-long Seagliders can spend months at sea collecting data that contributes to our understanding of climate change.

To date, the seven SAMS Seagliders have spent the equivalent of five years at sea, travelling more than 33,000 kilometres. One of the Seagliders, Ardbeg, has this week broken a SAMS distance record by completing a return trip of more than 3,400km along the Extended Ellett Line, a route from Scotland to Iceland that has been surveyed by scientists for 40 years.

Dr Stefan Gary, a research associate in physical oceanography at SAMS, said: “Seagliders allow oceanographers to make cost-effective, long-term, and long-distance observations, often in hard-to-access regions that ships rarely frequent and other ocean robots rarely go.

“Because of their durability we often deploy them in the winter, as they have been known to withstand extreme storm-force conditions.

“Seagliders also allow for very dense sampling of the ocean, collecting a profile every three kilometres, while a survey vessel usually samples every 10 to 30 kilometres.”

Seagliders collect data down to 1,000m as they slowly submerge towards the seabed and then rise to the surface, using fixed wings and a hydrodynamic shape to create a forward movement. To submerge, a battery-powered pump moves oil into a pressurised container, increasing the density of the glider in the water and causing it to sink. To bring the glider to the surface, oil is pumped back into a bladder to increase buoyancy. Live data is sent by the gliders via satellite to the pilots at SAMS, who can control and re-direct them remotely in near real-time.

SAMS owns two Seagliders – purchased in 2009 and 2011 – and has operated another five from the Natural Environment Research Council’s (NERC) Marine Autonomous and Robotic Systems (MARS) instrument pool since April 2014. SAMS, which is ideally situated for deep-sea Atlantic research, runs the Scottish Marine Robotics Facility, a command and control centre for Seaglider operations.

Currently, the SAMS Seagliders are contributing to three major NERC-funded projects: the Extended Ellett Line, a time series monitoring the evolution of the waters flowing between Scotland and Iceland; the FASTNEt project, looking at physical exchange processes between the deep ocean and shelf seas; and the international OSNAP project, which will monitor the oceanographic circulation across the subpolar North Atlantic until 2018. Scientists across Europe are working together towards maximising the gliders’ potential in terms of data quality, quantity, accessibility and cost effectiveness through projects such as AtlantOS or as part of the glider community group EGO.

In addition to collecting large quantities of new data, the SAMS Seaglider programmes have had a pivotal role in the training of several early career scientists and technicians. This focus on the next generation of researchers complements the new NERC initiative for a smart and autonomous observation Centre for Doctoral Training, which may lead to future opportunities.

UK’s Jisc Delivers World’s First 400G NREN with Ciena

Jisc, which operates the busiest National Research and Education Network (NREN) in Europe by volume of data carried, is deploying Ciena’s 6500 packet-optical platform powered by WaveLogic Ai coherent optics to provide unprecedented high-capacity 400G wavelength connectivity. The deployment makes the Janet Network one of the most digitally-advanced NRENs globally in terms of scale, automation and network intelligence.

A submarine cable was installad recently in Ireland connecting the Galway Bay Ocean Energy Test Site and to the shore. The cable will supply power to the site and allow unlimited data transfer from the site for researchers testing innovative marine technology including renewable ocean energy devices.  There is a nice video showing the process at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yxv0UoXfs58

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