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Testing Autonomous Mapping

New sensor platforms, such as autonomous vehicles and drones, open up new possibilities for mapping the terrain, sediments and habitats in shallow waters and the foreshore. In June MAREANO teamed up with NTNU-AMOS to test out unmanned and autonomous platforms for interdisciplinary mapping. 

AUV lastes om bord i en båt av to menn. Foto.
AUTONOMOUS UNDERWATER VEHICLE: The AUV "Harald" is prepared for the expedition of the day and taken on board the boat "Lophelia". Photo: Sten-Richard Birkely

The mapping expedition took place on the island of Runde in Sunnmøre between the 19th and 25th June and was led by Professor Martin Ludvigsen and Professor Geir Johnsen, both from NTNU AMOS - Centre for Autonomous Marine Operations and Systems.

During the mapping expedition a variety of platforms both on, under and over the water, were tested, as well as a range of different scientific equipment and sensors. The MAREANO programme is particularly interested in the testing of video systems and multibeam echosounder on various platforms.

The area around Runde is a very good test area since a good deal of marine mapping is already taking place in the area, and because the Norwegian Armed Forces have released detailed bathymetric data for much of south Sunnmøre. Most of the data in coastal Norway are subject to military restrictions.

Autonomous mapping on Svalbard?

During 2017 and 2018 the MAREANO programme will undertake bathymetric mapping using multibeam echosounders in Svalbard. This will be followed by a geology, biology and chemistry mapping expedition to conduct video surveys and sampling of the seabed.

The programme aims to map close to shore and in shallow waters in Kongsfjorden on the west coast and in Rijpfjorden on Nordauslandet. With this in mind MAREANO is interested in how USVs (Unmanned Surface Vehicles), AUVs (Autonomous Underwater Vehicles) and small Remotely Controlled Vehicles (ROVs) can contribute to this mapping. These platforms can potentially provide better access to shallow waters and close to glacier fronts, which are difficult to access with standard boat-based surveys. Use of these platforms may well help make the mapping more effective than by relying on more traditional methods.

– This test expedition on Runde provides a good opportunity for MAREANO to evaluate both the practical side of operating with these autonomous and unmanned platforms as well as assessing the quality of the collected data. The results will directly contribute to the planning of further mapping on Svalbard in 2018, says Hanne Hodnesdal, project leader for MAREANO at the Norwegian Mapping Authority Hydrorgaphic Service.

– We want to map the two fjords on Svalbard to provide thorough documentation of  the present-day environmental conditions there. Research has indicated that Kongsfjorden is already affected by climate change, while Rjipfjorden is believed to be affected to a far lesser extent, says Terje Thorsnes, project leader for MAREANO at the Geological Survey of Norway.

programmering av USV Otter før sjøsetting. Foto
USV:  Programming the USV (Unmanned surface vehicle) "Otter". Photo: Sten-Richard Birkely

The mapping expedition on Runde

NTNU AMOS invited the MAREANO-programme (Norwegian Mapping Authority Hydrographic Service,Geological Survey of Norway,Institute of Marine Research),together with platform operators from Maritime Robotics and multibeam engineers from Norbit on the mapping expedition on Runde. Runde Environmental Centre is also part of this cooperation and provided a perfect base for the fieldwork.

Representing the MAREANO programme on this expedition were Øyvind Tappel (Norwegian Mapping Authority Hydrographic Service), Margaret Dolan (Geological Survey of Norway), Terje Thorsnes (Geological Survey of Norway) and Sten-Richard Birkely (Institute of Marine Research).

To menn i fjæra sammen med en ROV. Foto
REMOTLEY OPERATED VEHICLE: NTNU and the Institute of Marine Research get ready to test the mini ROV "Blueye". Photo: Margaret Dolan

En USV ute på havet. Foto.
OTTER: The USV "Otter" in action. Photo: Sten-Richard Birkely

Nettbrett med kartvisning. Foto.
IN ACTION: "Otter" is followed by Arild Hepsø from Maritime Robotics. Photo: Øyvind Tappel

To menn ser på en dataskjerm. Foto.
CALIBRATION: Christian Malmquist (NTNU) and Thomas Rygh (Norbit) looking through the calibration report after the first day of the expedition. Photo: Øyvind Tappel

To menn og en drone. Foto.
DRONE: Geological Survey of Norway and Maritime Robotics were testing use of drones. Photo: Margaret Dolan


Hanne Hodnesdal
Norwegian Mapping Authoity,
Hydrographic Service
Tel. + 47 51 85 88 23

Terje Thorsnes
Geological Survey of Norway
Tel. +47 452 81 775

Sten-Richard Birkely
Institute of Marine Research
Tel. +47 917 22 577

Beate Hoddevik
Communications advisor, 
Institute of Marine Research
Tel. +47 908 21 630

Sissel Kanstad
Communications advisor,
The Norwegian Mapping Authority
Tel. +47 51 85 88 28 / +47 995 13 848

Gudmund Løvø
Communications advisor,
Geological Survey of Norway
Tel. +47 990 91 742