WiMUST: better ways of surveying the seabed
Geotechnical surveying of the seabed is carried out for many reasons, from infrastructure construction to mapping natural hazards and detecting new sources of oil and gas. Traditionally, acoustic surveys are performed by hydrophones (underwater microphones) towed behind a ship together with powerful sound sources. The hydrophones pick up signals from these sound sources reflected by the sedimentary layers below the seabed to build up a picture of geophysical structures.
EU-funded researchers are developing less complex and logistically demanding techniques to do this. The WiMUST (Widely Scalable Mobile Underwater Sonar Technology) project aims to build a system of teams of autonomous marine robots that work together to pick up sounds, and can be configured in different ways. This should make surveying quicker and cheaper.
The project brought together a group of research institutions, geophysical surveying companies, and SMEs with experience in communications, marine robot design and fabrication, and other relevant technical expertise. It developed advanced networked control and navigation systems to enable multiple marine robots (operating both on the surface and underwater) to interact and share information as a coordinated surveying team.
Traditional surveying methods with towed hydrophones are cumbersome. Both the geometry of the complete array of hydrophones and their relative positions with respect to the acoustic source are fixed. By contrast, the robots developed by WiMUST can move freely in a coordinated fashion to pick up sounds. The innovative method the project devised can also be used to develop future applications in search and rescue operations, environmental monitoring and surveillance applications, demining, spill detection and plume tracking, underwater archaeology and fishing.
WiMUST in brief
- Total Budget: EUR 3 970 081.25 (EU contribution: EUR 3 970 081.25)
- Duration: 02/2015-01/2018
- Countries involved: Italy (coordinator), Germany, France, Netherlands, Portugal, United Kingdom.
Key figures in the European Union
- The project experimented with teams of up to seven robots.
- By 2025 the economic impact of the automation of knowledge work, robots and autonomous vehicles will reach between EUR 6.5 and EUR 12 trillion annually.
- The Commission is increasing its annual investments in AI by 70% as part of its Horizon 2020 programme, to reach EUR 1.5 billion for 2018-2020.
Artifical intelligence (AI)
AI is one of the most promising technologies for economic growth and addressing societal challenges in the years ahead. The new wave of AI-based innovations will profoundly impact not only digital products and services, but also traditional industry and the non- ICT sector, and will help to improve people’s everyday lives.
In April 2018 the European Commission presented a series of measures to increase public and private investment in AI, to prepare for socio-economic changes, and ensure an appropriate ethical and legal framework. The new Digital Europe programme that the Commission is proposing for 2021-27, with an overall budget of EUR 9.2 billion, also includes EUR 2.45 billion of funding for AI.