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Creating a pioneering new approach to marine monitoring

Research Development UK (RDUK) gathers data from inshore waters to better understand the effect of increasing human commercial and leisure activities in UK coastal waters. RDUK aims to research, engage and collaborate with academics, entrepreneurs and local communities, to better understand the marine environment. As a result, RDUK contributes to the development of scalable and sustainable new products and services.

One of the key technologies that RDUK utilise is the LoRaWAN network, as their Director, Joe Dennett, explains:

“LoRaWAN is short for Long Range Wide Area Network. It is a wireless technology that uses VHF to send data from multiple sensors at sea back to shore. Shore based gateways receive the data which is then available on the internet. We are interested in this technology for wildlife monitoring, particularly acoustic monitoring. Live data can be sent back over VHF, internet, cellular or satellite links to be built into a real time graph of activity.  Once on the internet, application servers in the cloud display real time information from the sensors at sea.” 

Meg Hayward Smith, Marine Scientist for RDUK, skippers Molly Oxford, their traditional gaff rigged sailing boat, linking traditional methods with innovative marine technology and research. Meg says: “Using LoRaWAN alongside a data buoy, we will be developing marine mammal acoustic monitoring around the South West coast and beyond. We send back live cetacean data from our coastal waters or even more remote offshore locations, to improve current data sets and knowledge. This allows us to support work on innovation around renewable energy helping improve mitigation and protection of cetaceans.” 

Joe Dennett adds: “Other uses for LoRa in the marine sector could be water quality monitoring, asset tracking, and security alerts for equipment in the water. The ability to use solar power and satellite backhaul opens up the possibility of monitoring in the most remote locations.”

RDUK engaged with Marine-i to gain RD&I support for a new project that would take their pioneering work to the next level, tackling a number of key industry challenges including:

  • Increasing understanding of the marine environment through the utilisation of acoustic monitoring and water quality data 
  • Collecting, transferring and analysing close to real time marine acoustic data in near shore and offshore environments
  • Establishing a marine data transfer network 
  • Establishing a marine acoustic monitoring service for the emerging Celtic Sea Floating Offshore Wind (FLOW) opportunity and an understanding of the functioning system and deployment strategies for the expected environmental conditions in these areas

Alex Whatley of University of Plymouth says:

“The comprehensive programme will provide vital guidance to RDUK on a number of key project issues, detailing the infrastructure and feasibility of the LoRaWAN Marine Monitoring Network and  identifying the FLOW Development Areas, and the underlying environmental data and acoustic monitoring needs over the FLOW lifecycle. It will also prove the effectiveness of data transfer from an inshore LoRa Buoy to a shore side server.”

Joe Dennett says:

“Having access to the expert team at Marine-i has been a massive boost for our project. It is critical that we develop our understanding of how human activities are impacting our oceans and marine life. Marine-i is helping us to advance that important work into new areas.”

Prof Lars Johanning, Programme Director for Marine-i, says:

“It is great to see this pioneering innovation being developed in Cornwall. RDUK have a clear vision of what they want to deliver with this technology, and Marine-i’s support is helping them to achieve their goals at a faster pace than might otherwise be possible. Their solutions could have worldwide applications for improving the effectiveness of marine monitoring.”

[Image: Molly Oxford, the traditional Heard 28 gaff rig sailing boat from which RDUK conduct their marine research. Photo Credit – Lewis Gillingham]