New Generation of Ocean Exploration Propelled by High-Speed Wireless Technology


Opening the door to a new stage in ocean exploration, researchers at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego, will describe a new technology-driven approach to improving sea-going investigations.

Much like rural doctors are increasingly using technology to access vital medical information at remote locations, a new research thrust based at Scripps will use wireless networking to link land-based tools and resources with oceanographic ships at sea.

The project, "Exploring the Environment in Time: Wireless Networks & Real-Time Management," capitalizes on recent advances in high-speed satellite and wireless networking through the Internet for real-time delivery of large quantities of data at high, but affordable, data rates. Under the new design, information obtained at sea will be transmitted instantly to shore. Thus scientists on land will be able to immediately analyze the data and provide feedback to ships at sea.

The effort is the next stage in oceanographic ship-to-shore communication, advancing from prior efforts using radio, telephone, and early satellite communications (for example, the SeaNet program managed by Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution).

The scientists say the impact on scientific work aboard ships is likely to be fundamental. They assert it will be possible to go to sea in the future with limited engineering capability for scientific operations by allowing shore-based quality control of data collected and videoconferencing for problem resolution. Costs for shipboard measurements will be reduced significantly, they believe, and the quality of data collected will increase.

"This is a major step in bringing new satellite and Internet technologies to oceanographic ships at sea while doing research," said Jon Berger of the Cecil H. and Ida M. Green Institute of Geophysics and Planetary Physics (IGPP) at Scripps Institution. "In the future this will give us the opportunity to make decisions on shore in real-time."

The system will be installed on the Scripps research vessel Roger Revelle in New Zealand in February 2002. The researchers have scheduled a series of tests on Revelle research cruises throughout the Pacific during 2002.

The project’s short-term goal is to demonstrate the communications system in various weather conditions and sea states while testing and developing the real-time data quality control and archiving methodology. The long-term goal is to enable continuous observations in the ocean, specifically supporting the goals of the DEOS (Dynamics of Earth and Ocean Systems) observatory program supported through a National Science Foundation (NSF) Major Research Equipment (MRE) program.

IGPP and its partner in the project, the San Diego Supercomputer Center (SDSC), are supported in this research by the NSF Information Technology Research (ITR) Program, the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology [Cal-(IT)2], Scripps Institution, and IGPP. The tests aboard the R/V Roger Revelle are supported by the Office of Naval Research and the National Science Foundation.

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