A project from AutoNaut Limited, a marine engineer in West Sussex, is among the winners of a first round of funding from Innovate UK and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) to back schemes to improve observation in UK waters.
The competition is part of the government’s marine Natural Capital and Ecosystem Assessment (NCEA) programme, which is integrating natural capital approaches into decision making for the marine environment.
In the first stage, £835,415 of funding has been allocated across 11 projects, which are developing key technologies, including data acquisition, communication, storage, and analysis for more efficient analysis of marine life.
AutoNaut, an award winner, is advancing a project to adapt and develop a commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) casting winch to operate to 100 metres depth from its wave propelled AutoNaut uncrewed surface vessel (USV).
The project will provide an ideal zero carbon platform for observing UK offshore and deep ocean biodiversity.
Other winners include a project to develop a remotely operated visual and soundscape monitoring array mounted to an automated marine vehicle and technologies that can automatically collect large quantities of environmental (e)DNA from the marine environment, as well as protocols to semi-quantify fish species abundance.
In all, Innovate UK and Defra are jointly investing £1.5 million to back innovative projects and later this year, the pair will launch the second stage of this competition to back the development of complete end-to-end marine monitoring systems and their verification and validation.
This will include on-site testing in an operational environment, data curation, validation, analysis or visualisation.
Professor Gideon Henderson, the chief scientific advisor at Defra, said: “Innovative new marine monitoring technologies and capabilities are critical for improving observation capabilities of our waters, enabling us to fill priority evidence gaps on the health of our marine natural capital assets and the pressures they are facing.
“By working together with SMEs and other partners, we can progress the UK’s vision for clean, healthy, safe, productive and biologically diverse seas.”
Andrew Tyrer, robotics challenge director at Innovate UK, added: “Innovate UK is excited to be working with Defra, to harness the collective strength of British robotics and sensor companies together with academic colleagues, to accelerate the development and deployment of technologies to autonomously monitor the unique marine environment around the UK’s shores.”