Sea Technology

MAY 2018

The industry's recognized authority for design, engineering and application of equipment and services in the global ocean community

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14 ST | May 2018 equivalent speed when communicating with a practical low-gain antenna on a miniature sensor at sea. Alpha- bet X (Google) Project Loon involving steerable internet balloons is another option. In ocean areas of particular interest, networks of these balloons may work as a stratospheric "cell tower" net- work. In more remote settings, steerable balloons might be commissioned to visit smart sensors for rapid data retrieval in response to visit requests logged via a slow satellite link. Ultimately, an Ocean Dashboard as a global maritime information utility is likely to be based on a multilevel struc- ture, with small and inexpensive drift- ing devices such as WD-1, animal tags, etc. most pervasive but complemented by larger and more capable platforms. Boeing's recent acquisition of the Wave Glider manufacturer Liquid Robotics to boost autonomous surveillance at sea and the companies' glider-centric vision of the Digital Ocean is a recent such in- dicator. The introduction of miniature ocean smart sensors, steep price reductions for ocean technolo- gy and the potential for faster communication options for maritime devices are placing us at a revolutionary thresh- old in ocean sensing. On the defense front, Adm. Hogg's prediction may be set to come true as a Navy built around a limited number of very expensive and vulnerable sensor-hosting ships and other platforms is replaced by a fleet of relatively simple weapons carriers roaming the oceans; a fleet ty- ing into and informed by a near invisible, virtually un- defeatable and always present distributed ocean sensing network capable of identifying the type of new asymmet- ric threats that now increasingly evade detection. Similar to GPS, as Ocean Dashboard capabilities grow and costs decline, such a sensing network will sure- ly grow into a ubiquitous new global utility. The journey and accidental "discovery" of the tiny ocean explorer may be a harbinger pointing out the op- portunities and implications of a revolutionized ocean sensing infrastructure. References For a list of references, contact Marco Flagg at marco. ST libraries, communication protocols and even text fixtures and procedures. While the market for an individual prod- uct may be limited, the cumulative use of each design block, manufacturing technique and test procedure as employed across multiple devices is much higher. The resulting economies of scale cut device cost and build demand, allowing further price reductions. The vicious cycle leading to high costs and limited use has been replaced with a vir- tuous cycle of lower costs and growing demand. Today, a SeaTag-LOT PSAT for stock assessment, basic migratory track- ing and mortality studies is available for $500, only about one-eighth the price of previous options. On the high end, SeaT- ag-MOD's reusable design has reduced the effective price per deployment to un- der $1,000 in some cases. Consequent- ly, the devices have now been adopted for species that have not previously ben- efited from PSAT technology, such as lake trout. Ongoing or proposed studies based on sample size exceeding 100 are becoming more frequent. Deployment, Practicality and Implications Of Ocean Dashboard The Ocean Dashboard would be powered by a soda can-sized device building on the SeaTag-MOD design, but also incorporating a digital acoustic recorder and signal-processing capability, plus a small, solar-powered buoyancy engine for controlled diving. Numerous of these WD-1 devices could be deployed cheaply as need- ed; thrown off the stern of patrolling ships or dropped from airplanes. Sinking to depth to listen quietly, observe, time and fingerprint acoustic events, a WD-1 may then surface to report, recharge its batteries and sink again to ride the conveyor belt of ocean currents to a new location in a targeted fashion. As with SeaTag, WD-1 will be de- signed in a modular fashion. It will draw long-endurance sound recording and localization design blocks from Desert Star's microMARS and SonarPoint systems, devel- oped in recent years through NOAA's Advanced Sensor Technology Working Group (ASTWG) and the Office of Naval Research's Marine Mammal Program (MMP). Of course, just like our smartphones are enabled by capable cell and Wi-Fi communication infrastructures, so will an Ocean Dashboard need adequate communi- cation channels. Argos is particularly useful for very small devices, and Iridium yields faster rates for somewhat larg- er devices starting around the soda can size standard. As requirements grow, faster communication solutions that can produce cell phone-like bandwidth for small devices at sea are on the horizon or at least plausible. SpaceX recently launched the first two of its Starlink low-Earth orbit internet satellites. The satellites' steerable high- gain, phased-array antennas, while normally intended to communicate with similar pizza box-sized antennas on fixed stations or ships, might still yield cell network Marco Flagg is the CEO of Desert Star Systems LLC. For the past 25 years, he led Desert Star's de- sign team, building a broad but modular ocean technology product line. Today, his focus is lever- aging this design base to introduce affordable and scalable solutions for current problems in ocean management. PSAT tags are most frequently used on large pelagic species such as tuna, billfish and sharks, but techni- cal innovations, price reduction and reusability are now enabling tagging of other species such as lake trout, pictured here. This growing demand reduces cost, which may eventually enable widespread ocean sensing and reporting applications. (Photo Credit: Rick Goetz)

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