There are few environments as unforgiving as the ocean. Its unpredictable weather patterns and limitations in terms of communications have left large swaths of the ocean unexplored and shrouded in mystery. "The ocean is a fascinating environment with a number of current challenges like microplastics, algae blooms, coral bleaching, and rising temperatures," says Wim van Rees, the ABS Career Development Professor at MIT. "At the same time, the ocean holds countless opportunities -- from aquaculture to energy harvesting and exploring the many ocean creatures we haven't discovered yet." Ocean engineers and mechanical engineers, like van Rees, are using advances in scientific computing to address the ocean's many challenges, and seize its opportunities. These researchers are developing technologies to better understand our oceans, and how both organisms and human-made vehicles can move within them, from the micro scale to the macro scale.
We've discovered thousands of previously uncharted underwater mountains, which are also known as seamounts. They are included in the most detailed map of the ocean floor ever produced. The seamounts were compiled by a team led by David Sandwell and Brook Tozer at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego. Their new topographical map has uncovered more than five thousand seamounts and possibly as many as ten thousand. The exact number still need to be confirmed, as they have not been counted individually yet.
"This issue is bigger than all of us, and we cannot wait for the next generation to solve it. We are running out of excuses to not take action, and running out of time," the president said from a manned submersible 400 feet (121 meters) below the waves, on the seabed off the outer islands of the African nation.
Marine scientists admit we've "barely scratched" the surface of the Earth's oceans, but patient, talented, fearless photographers give us a beautiful glimpse of it each year. The winners of the annual Underwater Photographer of the Year competition have been announced, annually diving into the dark depths to introduce us to a world beneath the surface of oceans, pools, rivers, and lakes. Celebrating underwater photography since 1965, the UK competition features 13 categories including wrecks, portrait, wide angle, macro, behaviour, and marine conservation. This year's winner, beating 4,200 entries from 71 countries, is Spain's Rafael Fernandez Caballero with a stunning wide angle photograph of a shiver of whale sharks in the Maldives' Ari Atoll. "It was already incredible when one whale shark came to our boat," said Fernandez in a press statement.
Australia's AI-based navigation hardware firm Advanced Navigation has developed a fully autonomous underwater drone designed to help researchers and scientists overcome barriers that they typically face when collecting underwater imagery and data. The drone, named Hydrus, is an out-of-the box system that boasts an AI-powered sonar navigation system so that when it is underwater it can navigate around obstacles, such as marine life. The six-kilogram drone also has a 4K 60fps camera that is integrated with the AI engine to analyse image quality and adjust lighting accordingly. Other specs include being able to run up to four hours underwater with its lithium-ion battery, record sound, and features 256GB of internal storage. According to Advanced Navigation, Hydrus can also travel up to 3,000 metres deep, with future versions expected to go further; battle currents of up to six knots; and has been built on an open-platform so users can load their own software and train the AI-system to recognise specific marine species.