The oceans data deficit.

The oceans data deficit.


Amazing maps show the world as you've never seen it (via The Telegraph)

A useful reminder, if it were needed, of just how much we don’t know about our oceans. The areas in light blue on this map show where we do have survey data, where marine life has been identified and studied; the dark blue areas (the vast majority of the globe) are where we have little or no survey data at all.

This is obviously not a new problem, but technological advancement is starting to show promise that the ocean knowledge deficit can be addressed. If embraced, satellite-derived bathymetry (such as that provided by companies such as TCarta Marine) and hydrography and other ocean data services delivered by lower-cost and persistent autonomous vessels (such as provided by our good friends at AutoNaut) can help to bridge the gap.

Small satellite market worth USD 7.53 billion by 2022 (via Markets and Markets)

SRT leads with new OCEAN-SCAN satellite vessel detection and tracking system (via BusinessWire)

Part of the answer to the oceans data deficit will also align to the growth of small satellites. A new Market and Markets report this week highlighted the growth coming in that sector. As we move from Old Space to New Space and the market opens up to allow many more companies to build, launch and share data from their own small satellites (many as small as a household toaster!), the opportunities for affordable Earth Observation could increase exponentially.

This also applies to companies who use data. Not completely happy with the EO data provided by existing satellite networks? Well why not just launch your own? That’s what SRT Marine Systems announced recently. SRT provide maritime tracking, management and surveillance technologies. and, announces that it will build and launch its own maritime monitoring satellite constellation, called OCEAN-SCAN, which will provide “enhanced global vessel detection and tracking and a new recurring revenue source from maritime domain awareness (MDA) system project customers.”

Initially comprising six Low Earth Orbiting (LEO) satellites in equatorial and polar orbits to provide global coverage, the constellation will specifically focus on equatorial regions as they provide the greatest opportunities for Marine Domain Awareness. OCEAN-SCAN is expected to be fully operational in 2019. 

Project Loon's balloons to bring cell service to Puerto Rico (via Axios.com)

So, we know that connectivity is the secret to enabling the Blue Economy, and that satellite communications have made great inroads to cracking to conundrum of affordable, reliable broadband (more accurately near broadband) connectivity for shipping and satcomms service providers are offering ever more user oriented packages. 

However, there is much more to the Blue Economy than shipping – fishing, offshore Oil & Gas, renewables, seabed mining, leisure, tourism, marine bio technology and, of course, aquaculture – which is where connectivity is and could be a game changer. 

HAPS (High Altitude Pseudo Satellites) are, we believe, part of the answer to persistent connectivity – operating on the edge of the stratosphere and holding location through clever manipulation of differing windspeeds and direction at varying levels of the air column. 

Multiply the number of HAPS, add some clever AI and a 24/7 operational control centre and, bingo, you have a localised connectivity platform for numerous fish farms in remote locations or for disaster relief operations such as cell phone services for hurricane-hit Puerto Rico. 

Take a look at the video - leading edge technology and innovative thinking combining to crack real problems!


There’s enough wind energy over the oceans to power human civilization, scientists say (via The Washington Post)

The big Blue Economy news this week was related to the release of this new report on the potential of offshore energy, produced by the Carnegie Institution for Science in Stanford, Calif.

Wind speeds on the ocean can be as much as 70% higher than on land. Storms over the mid-latitude oceans regularly transfer wind energy down to the surface from high altitudes making a much higher upper limit on how much energy wind turbines can capture than on land.

The study also notes that wind energy gathered on land has an upper limit due to how structures on the land, both natural and manmade, can slow wind speeds. Land-based turbines themselves slow the air reducing the amount of energy subsequent rows of turbines can generate. The ocean, on the other hand, has a much higher limit.

This provides the wind energy potential over the oceans that could be used to generate “civilization scale power.”

The report’s authors were quick to point out that they didn't think that development on such a scale was likely. Investment cost aside, not many coastal residents would vote wind turbines as far as the eye can see. But the point has been reinforced that there is a huge amount of untapped energy in the oceans. Who will be able to harvest it in the best, most sustainable and cost-effective way?

Congratulations to report author Ken Caldeira and team for this valuable contribution.


Insurers tighten net on illegal fishing (via gCaptain)

Lots of news as ever on the growing number of methods, programmes and initiatives intended to reduce the amount of illegal fishing in the world’s waters.

We are great believers in satellite-powered services such as the brilliant UK company OceanMind, who blend satellite data with world-leading fisheries expertise to identify and analyse suspicious activity in targeted waters so that regulators or nations states can better target interdiction resources.

However, this particular article caught our eyes as an example of the type of co-ordinated approach needed to close loopholes which enable illegal fishers to continue to undertake their hugely damaging activity.

The firms who have signed up to the scheme will deny insurance for vessels on an EU blacklist of over 100 ships involved in illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing around the world.

This closes a loophole that – through poorly defining what is meant by pirate fishing - previously allowed them to continue to ply their trade. A hat tip to the 20 insurance companies who have launched the scheme.

More next week! Please comment and share.


Up, up and away.

Up, up and away.


World View successfully launches its first stratollite from its Tucson HQ (via TechCrunch)

Stratollites are very exciting, offering very cost-effective platforms for deploying earth observation sensors and communications nodes on the edge of space without all the need for space hardening the technology.

Even better than that, the potential payload is massive and sensors can be recovered to earth for upgrading and re-tasking on mission completion. The main challenge, though, will be to hold the stratollite overhead a geographical area of interest for long enough periods to make the investment worthwhile. Stratollites… hopefully coming to an airspace near you in the near future!


Effective marine protection: More than just lines on a map (via National Geographic)

A very welcome contribution to the Marine Protected Areas debate from  Fanny Douvere of the UNESCO World Heritage Marine Programme.

With the aim firmly established of 10 percent of the world’s ocean to be protected through governmental mechanisms by 2020, the policy and operational focus undoubtedly shifts from establishment to enforcement.

Fanny lists many of the previous leaps forward in establishing Marine Protected Areas, but we would also point to the just-published research that showed that a co-ordinated programme to protect fisheries in the Philippines’ Tañon Strait yielded an economic investment some 30 times the level of the original investment.

So, the lines are drawn and the economic argument for investment is developing. We also hope that aligning, testing and proving the value of innovative technology approaches also continues apace.

We were especially pleased to see the article mention radar and satellite monitoring for remote surveillance, as we feel these have the potential to offer great Return on Investment, allowing for the kind of enhanced monitoring, control and surveillance capabilities that could not be achieved by investing in sea-level technologies alone.


Coastal creatures are crossing oceans floating on makeshift rafts of plastic debris, warn scientists (via the Telegraph)

While the recent growth in awareness of the plastic waste phenomenon in our seas and oceans is timely and very encouraging, it is research such as this that exposes how little we know about the scale of the problem. Our scientists know enough to be worried – probably quite worried – but, in truth, they don’t have sufficient data to know how worried they should really be. 

We therefore need data, lots of it, and with modern technology we can all be data gatherers.  Earth observation from satellite sensors is potentially transformative and goes a long way to providing a strategic picture of the marine environment, especially when operated in tandem with ground truthing autonomous technologies to create SMART connected ocean frameworks. 

Those frameworks are evolving, but real progress will be made when marine scientists and environmentalists work in close partnership with all maritime operators (everyone with business on the seas) and all seafarers (shipping, fishing and leisure) to gather and share marine environment data as freely as possible.  It doesn’t matter what the technical process is called – citizen science and/or crowd sourcing – we have the technology in the form of GPS, sensors and connectivity. Let’s get on and make it happen!


Why we should use the tech start-up model to solve environmental problems (via mnn.com)

Environmental journalist Starre Vartan argues on the Mother Nature Network that there is much to learn from lean start-up model of the tech start-up world.

Some tech envangelists can be a bit blinkered as to the all-powerful potential of innovative approaches, but Starre reassuringly reminds us that “not all tech ideas are genius — some of them seem useless, ridiculous or both.”

This provides extra solidity to her embrace of Conservation X Labs (CXL), launched by conservationist Alex Dehgan in 2015 and which aims to act as a start-up accelerator for environmental technologies. She draws particular attention to their newly-launched collaborative online platform, Digital Makerspace, where everyone involved in environmental technologies can convene to share ideas and identify opportunites for collaboration.

CXL won’t just be an engineer’s talking shop, though. Specific requests for environmental solutions will be posted on the site from groups like the WWF and the U.S. Department of the Interior.

Worth checking out; we look forward to seeing this initiative grow in the coming months.


Navigational Safety Efforts Continue in SOMS (via World Maritime News)

This week, we were delighted to travel to beautiful Kota Kinabulu in Sabah, Malaysia, to attend the 10th Cooperation Forum (CF10) of the Cooperative Mechanism Between the Littoral States and User States on Safety of Navigation and Environmental Protection in the States of Malacca and Singapore (SOMS).

The main public output from the event was the announcement of the launch of a second phase of a joint hydrographic survey, agreed jointly by between Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia and Malacca Strait Council (MSC) of Japan. The second phase of the survey will cover the remaining areas of the Traffic Separation Scheme (TSS) within the SOMS which are shallower than 30 meters.

NLA were there to present an overview of the UK Space Agency’s EASOS programme, an innovative data service that will support Malaysia to use satellite assets to counter the combined environmental threats of illegal logging, flood devastation and oil pollution in the Straits of Malacca.

We were both hugely encouraged by delegates’ support of and interest in the EASOS programme, and impressed with the focus and scale of ambition of the Cooperation Forum. Truly collaborative gatherings of multiple governments, NGOs, academia and – crucially – industry stakeholder groups – are always great to find.

We extend our heartfelt thanks to EASOS and the Malaysian Marine Department for the invitation.

That’s all for now. More Blue Economy tech news next week. Please comment and forward. 


A weekly round-up of our favourite Blue Economy news and comment. 

Friend or foe?

Friend or foe?


Are you ready for that jelly? Why it’s time to start eating jellyfish (via theguardian.com)

On the face of it, they are a blight on our seas and beaches – clogging the pipes of nuclear reactors; decimating salmon farm stocks; and even capsizing a 10-ton fishing boat. On the other hand, though, could jellyfish actually be a tech-enabled opportunity? They’re clearly a source of protein; if humans can eat them, could they more usefully be viewed as a fertiliser or a food source for animals and farmed fish? Might they be biodegradable and hence a source of renewable energy through anaerobic digestion? At the very least, we should take steps to improve our knowledge of jellyfish – their habitats, behaviours, their population growth and their impact on the marine environment. 

There is some evidence that jellyfish blooms can be seen in satellite imagery, but more work is required here. Combining satellite-derived datasets with ground-truthing assets such as in-situ fixed sensors on the seabed and in the water column, and the use of marine autonomous systems (USVs and AUVs), might help to bring to life this potential. Have any of our readers come across such research activity taking place? Please comment below.

UN maritime agency spotlights link between shipping and sustainable development (via UN.org)

Some wonderfully varied activity took place on World Maritime Day 2017, but amongst it all, we were delighted to see the tone of the headline messaging from the IMO as it is conveyed in this article. Too often, the shipping industry is seen as a sustainability problem. However, like Kitack Lim, the Secretary-General of International Maritime Organization, we would much prefer to view shipping, ports and indeed many other areas of the Blue Economy as an enticing opportunity to help deliver the Sustainable Development Goals.

We were reminded of this recently when undertaking research for a new Blue Economy funding proposal for a tech-enabled IUU programme (hopefully more news to share on that soon!). In doing so, we calculated the effect that combating illegal fishing could have on the SDGs in the target country. Of course, the planned activity hit the most obvious goals (4 – Life Below Water; 2 – Ending Hunger), but the importance and reach of anti-IUU activity meant that we could clearly align potential programme outcomes to a further 11 SDGS, thus notching up 13 out of the potential total of 17.

Similarly, in ports and shipping, the potential for enhanced connectivity, satellite-derived services, autonomous activity in-port, and many more tech-enabled opportunities, are only going to increase the potential to deliver positive social outcomes at the same time as commercial benefit.

The Port of Rotterdam are leading testbeds of such innovation potential – trialling a range of marine and maritime innovations. We’re glad to see that the message that they and others are promoting may be beginning to cut through.


Operationalizing the Blue Economy in Small States: Lessons from the Early Movers (via cigionline.com)

Ontario-based think tank the Centre for International Government this week published this interesting short report on the challenges and opportunities facing Blue Economy development in small states.

Technology gets a couple of mentions. The Seychelles is praised for, amongst other things, integrating ocean-based technologies in the country’s energy strategy and modernising port infrastructure.

Secondly, new internationally supported initiatives are called for to catalyse technical capacity and expertise to support the Blue Economy in small states.

While the default position may be to consider larger states as being the key players driving the Blue Economy, technology innovation can allow you to do something new, do something better or perhaps do more with less, or the same, resource. It could be argued that small states may therefore have the most to gain here.

Can global funders play a larger and more visible role in joining up small state Blue Economy tech innovation? Congrats to report author Cyrus Rustomjee for this work. 


The 3 Vital Keys That Will Make Autonomous Shipping a Reality (via asvglobal.com)

A useful read for anyone interested in autonomous vessels. As the sector looks to move from proving capability to achieving scale, the key barriers and opportunities related to such growth need to be assessed.

According to expanding UK autonomous vessels company ASV Global, sensor fusion, control algorithms and communications are key to the future development of the market. What else should be added to that list?


Maritime CIO Forum Rotterdam 2017 (via our good friends at digitalship.com)

Finally, it was our great pleasure to support Digital Ship Copenhagen 2017 this week. Nick chaired the event and was pleased to note real energy and a strong sense that digitally connected shipping is now really gaining traction.

Watch out for Nick’s full blog on the event in the coming days.



The Russian USV testing platform in action.

The Russian USV testing platform in action.


Russia Set To Develop Unmanned Surface Vessels Simulation Platform For Commercial Application (via marineinsight.com)

Simulation engines are gathering pace quickly, as graphics and responsiveness improve all the time, making possible training opportunities that promise lower-cost and much enhanced safety. 

It's exciting to see such platforms becoming available to support USVs, themselves a rapidly developing technology.

Long-lost Avro Arrow model found at bottom of Lake Ontario (via the Toronto Star)

A Canadian search-and-recovery mission has successfully utilised Synthetic Aperture Sonar to find a flight test model of a Cold War-era supersonic interceptor jet.

The Arrow was a Canadian fighter jet developed in the 1950s that was lauded as a groundbreaking technological achievement before the programme’s controversial cancellation in 1959.

The sonar images were captured using Kraken Sonar's AquaPix Synthetic Aperture Sonar deployed onboard Kraken's ThunderFish Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV). Divers will be sent down on a "reconnaissance mission" soon to try and to assess the jet’s integrity.

It feels like we are just at the very beginning of what might be possible with underwater and surface autonomous vessels utilising new imaging technologies – which are becoming smaller and more stable all the time. Congrats to all at Kraken Sonar and the private funders of the project. 


Ocean of Truth - Speech by Ambassador Fiona Clouder at the 4th International Marine Protected Areas Congress (via gov.uk)

There is much to like in Ambassador Clouder’s recent speech at IMPAC4 in Chile, and in her subsequent statement endorsing the conference’s Call to Action. She is quite right, of course, to comment that, “It is one thing to designate MPAs. It is another to protect and preserve them.” 

With the UK’s 14 overseas territories combining to make up the fifth largest marine estate in the world, the problem of MPA governance is as much the UK’s as anyone’s. 

Marine technology has to lead the way, so it was pleasing to see the good work of our friends at CEFAS, the MMO, NOC, BGS and the Satellite Applications Catapult (especially the amazing (OceanMind) also being referenced.  

How Can Advanced Technologies Combat Illegal Fishing? (via Nasdaq.com)

A nice overview from Prableen Bajpai on an issue very close to our heart. 

With the global cost of unlawful fishing reaching up to an eye-watering $23.5 billion annually, the effect on economise – many of them struggling to feed their own populations, never mind seek export growth – the huge problem of Illegal Unreported and Unregulated fishing demands further attention. 

We hope to be able to share news of a new NLA UK-led collaborative technology effort on this issue later in the year. 


Blue economy now new growth engine of BRICS cooperation (via en.people.cn)

It can never be repeated enough that the Blue Economy has huge potential to drive and bolster economic growth, not hamper it. This message was broadcast loud and clear by the leadership panel at the recent BRICS Business Forum in Xiamen, southeast China. 

Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa’s marine economies have been dominated by shipping, fishing, aquaculture, and oil and gas. They now include sectors such as marine chemistry, biomedicine, ocean power, seawater use, marine tourism, ocean engineering and construction. More will follow, often driven by new technological advances, so no wonder the BRICS countries are keen to give this areas such visibility. 

That's all for now. More next week. Please comment and share across your networks below.