The Maritime sector has been transformed by digitalisation and technological innovation in practically every area, from underwater drones to airborne equipment. As a result, several ocean-related infrastructure and robotics projects in the works could potentially have a significant influence in the future.
Technological progress is accelerating in four areas:
- ocean sensing and imaging instruments (using artificial intelligence and machine-to-machine communication);
- expansion of spatial coverage of float arrays and fixed observation platforms;
- increasing autonomy in mobile platforms;
- new complex systems integration schemes.
Another area that is becoming increasingly active in the Blue Economy is the use of maritime robots. For example, underwater robots are used for different maritime environments, such as scientific research, exploration of oil and gas, and border surveillance.
Underwater systems are among the most valuable sectors within the robotics market, particularly in defence and military surveillance operations. They also enable ocean or underwater exploration in challenging environmental situations.
Technological advancement in the field of sensors and in state-of-the-art robotic technology will contribute to the growth of the Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV) market. However, marine robotics has been slow to gain traction due to the expense of R&D, the intricacy of underwater activities (such as communication), and navigation, and technological limitations. Despite the issues in developing, producing, and operating these robots, this technology is being used in several EU projects, some of which have received EU funding.
Commercial, defence, and scientific applications are all possible with the Global Underwater Robotics Market.
SMART-HATCHERYintends to increase the profitability fish farmers by reducing the costs of feeding processes in weaning stages while improving the quality of the feed and rearing water and offering a high-quality and safe seafood, with the best organoleptic and nutritional values.
The primary objective of the project is to innovate and alter the current feeding procedures in aquaculture hatcheries for marine fish and shrimp species by showcasing the advantages of using:
1) smartFEEsh: Centralised smart feeders based in innovative digital technologies, such as Cloud technologies, Internet of Things (IoT) and Artificial Intelligence which radically increase the co-feeding efficiency, reduce the wastes while increasing the quality of the water, reduce the stress level and susceptibility to disease and thus improve the welfare of the species.
2) WINFEEDS: A new generation of dry microdiets resulting from nutritional knowledge (premium quality ingredients that fulfil larvae nutritional requirements) and cutting–edge technologies (cold-extrusion and encapsulation – using pharmaceutical expertise), while have low leaching and high water stability, leading to maximal larval performance and welfare.
SMART-HATCHERY will enable a change in the current feeding practices in hatcheries in finfish aquaculture, using innovative process automation and ICTs (information and communication technologies) to increase feeding efficiency, improve animal welfare, ensure quality and safety of aquaculture products, and will consequently be a key contributor to the sustainability of commercial finfish aquaculture operations. It aims to:
1) increase production to reduce dependence on external markets,
2) promote the diversification of production by incorporating new species and new processed and added value products,
3) contribute to the creation of improved sustainable aquaculture systems,
4) improve professional skills and competences, and,
5) improve social perception and acceptability of the European aquaculture products.
The project received EU funding amounting to EUR 474 808.
However, commercial exploration has the highest use. Many countries are currently looking for alternate oil and gas supplies to meet their needs. This has prompted them to investigate the water bodies in their area. As a result, the market for underwater robotics is being driven by the desire to explore.
Submarine cable networks are essential infrastructure that ensures data, telecommunications, and power transmission connections within the EU and between the EU and foreign nations are possible. The International Cable Protection Committee (ICPC), which brings together government agencies and business companies involved in the submarine cable industry, is a platform where various parties can exchange technical, environmental, and legal information to improve submarine cable security.
DEMO-BLUESMARTFEED (Demonstration project of a smart technology for monitoring the delivery of feed for a sustainable aquaculture) is a Greek-Spanish consortium developing a system based on new technologies, programmed to better calibrate fish feed supply.
It aims at validating the SICA technology (“Smart System for Feeding Control) in real operational conditions (offshore sea cages in Spain and Greece) in order to speed up its market uptake. The SICA technology aims at minimising wasted non-eaten feed, resulting then into substantial savings for fish farmers, and a lighter environmental impact of aquaculture activities.
The project’s main objectives are: to verify the performance of the SICA (smart system for feeding control) technology in offshore environment; to improve the current SICA by designing a tailor product to fulfil customers’ needs; to validate SICA with relevant stakeholders (fish farmers) in Spain and Greece; to certify SICA under the CE marking; and to develop a Commercial Plan to support a successful commercial launch of the SICA technology.
The project received EU funding amounting to EUR 740 615.
Other types of robotics used in the maritime environment;
In surveillance activities, the Remotely Piloted Aircraft System (RPAS) is frequently utilised. These are compact, light aircraft that can travel a great distance, are easily piloted from the ground, and are capable of returning rich data and pictures. They are also used for monitoring and detecting marine pollution, general maritime surveillance, and ship monitoring.
According to estimates, over 400 submarine cables were in operation worldwide in 2021, covering around 1.3 million kilometres, with 45 additional cables scheduled to be installed by 2025. Cables can carry significantly more data at less cost than satellites. The economic importance of submarine cable networks (responsible for 99% of international data transfer and communication) was further highlighted during the past two years of the global COVID-19 pandemic during which people relied more than ever on data and telecommunication exchanges provided by such subsea cables.
Data traffic demand is driving content providers such as Amazon, Google, Facebook, and Microsoft to invest in underwater cables, driving projects, and route prioritisation, according to the Submarine Cable Map 2020. Over half of all demand in the Atlantic, intra-Asian, and trans-Pacific submarine routes is met by these companies. As the demand for internet data grows, more submarine cables are being built.