Robot reveals hidden depths of island’s seas
A multimillion-dollar marine research robot will be based in Bermuda from this summer.
The hi-tech Remus 100, designed by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts, will be used to collect valuable information on the state of the seas around the island.
Bermudians are being trained to pilot the robot, which is also adapted for minehunting and used by several navies, by a former navy autonomous systems expert, before the machine is deployed in July.
Choy Aming, a marine conservationist who will be one of the pilots, said: “This is an excellent opportunity for Bermudians.
As a Bermudian, this is a really exciting project because we have often been at the forefront of conservation and this is just the latest manifestation of how we will do it in the future.
“It is going to open up a complete new world.”
Operators in Bermuda will be trained to programme and process information gathered by the Remus 100, which is equipped with sophisticated sensor and navigation systems to help it carry out detailed sonar oceanographic surveys.
The Remus 100, which will be launched from the Bermuda Aquarium, Museum and Zoo in Flatts, can capture crystal-clear video footage, map fish numbers, identify individual species and track currents, temperatures, water salt levels and topography to help in ocean conservation.
The machine can collect information at depths of more than 300 feet far faster than human divers.
Ocean Tech, a Bermudian-based charity borne out of the marine conservation TV series Ocean Vet, which starred Neil Burnie, who died while free diving in 2014, uses the machine to undertake numerous missions in the waters off Bermuda and donated $70,000 to fund the latest research project.
Mr Aming said: “Neil would love that we are continuing the work that we started. Understanding our environment is critically important for our survival so that would have inspired him.”
The vehicle, now manufactured by Hydroid, a leader in marine robotics, is owned by Cerulean, a Remus 100 leasing company that is run by Henrik Schroder, a joint founder of Ocean Tech.
Andy Smith, a fellow Ocean Tech founder and mission manager, said he had put five years of “blood, sweat and tears” into the project, which is sponsored by financial services firm PwC, also a mission partner, and the Lindo's retail group.
Mr Smith said: “The more data we have about how the marine system works around Bermuda, the more we are likely to efficiently and effectively conserve what is here.
“Understanding is the key to making sure that we protect our marine environment.
“There is a huge lack of understanding about the ocean, so the more we understand, the more we give Government grounds for it to be protected.
“The fisheries department needs hard data in order for them to act on.”
He added: “We are the only charity in the world that can provide subsidised and free access to a Remus 100.
“We consider applications from around the world, but the idea is to bring scientists here to study.
“It is about bringing people to Bermuda and we have plans to involve universities in the UK and US and Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences educational programmes.”
The Remus has the most advanced fish finder in the world and can identify species by sonar signatures.
Mr Smith said: “This type of information will be critical for things like understanding how many grouper there are on the aggregation grounds and can give us an assessment of the population every year.
“It can also assess large areas for the amount and location of invasive lionfish. Lionfish remain a threat to Bermuda endemic species to this is hugely important.”
One of the first jobs for the Remus 100 will be to map Harrington Sound to produce a three-dimensional, topographical map.
Mr Smith said: “In a collaboration with BAMZ, the mission has been funded to map ‘the bottomless Harrington Sound' — finally we will know.
“Harrington Sound is such an important body of water and ecosystem. We will be able to see what the basin looks like, where the reefs are, what the depths there are.
Mr Smith added: “Choy will work with scientists, students and schools because he is so deeply passionate.
“His background is with Ocean Vet and he was involved in tagging sharks — programming the tags and dealing with the data of the tags to understand where they migrate. It is a natural evolution for him.”
Other local pilots will include Tim Noyes of Bios, Annie Glasspool, of Bermuda Environmental Consulting, and Henrik and Jonas Schroder.