DONNA KOCAK President, Marine Technology Society WORLDWIDE TRENDS in Ocean Observing Technology and development trends often follow a common path and 2017 was no exception. Most notable is the theme of establishing and strengthening international partnerships and connections to collect and share data. For example, nearly 400 researchers from 30 countries are using Canada’s OTN tag data to document movements of aquatic species. Another trend is adding mobile data collections. Ocean drifters and vessels of opportunity, such as ferry boats, are occasionally used; but the use of glider fleets is on the rise. Most recently is the Canary Island’s PLOCAN glider fleet. Australia’s IMOS, together with Rutgers University, are planning the next leg of the Challenger Mission glider that will cover 6,200 km of the Indian Ocean from Perth to Sri Lanka. Ocean observatory developments have also produced many new tools. Software and servers are needed to collect, store, process and visualize large amounts of data. U.S. IOOS has created an Environmental Sensor Map that connects over 32,000 stations, and an Environmental Data Server for visualization and analysis of integrated model output. India Ocean Observing System researchers have developed an Android mobile “app” to view both real-time and historical buoy data. In the coming year, we can expect a wider use of autonomous vehicles and don’t be surprised to see cross-domain drones working together. For example, picture a quadcopter launching from its recharging station atop an unmanned surface vehicle (USV) that is navigating a marine estuary or coastal waterway. In-flight imagery of the water’s surface, possibly sub-surface, and adjacent shoreline is collected from above, while the USV gathers in situ data and water samples along a similar path. Both data sets can be fused for water quality studies. As with air drones, this will require new policies for operating near manned vessels. We’ll see the integration of smallsat and cubesat data. We’ll see a wider use of scale manufacturing, less expensive sensors and autonomies working together. Low size, weight, power and cost (SWaP-C) integrated circuit (IC) and micro-electro-mechanical systems (MEMS) sensors will replace costlier traditional sensors. Spreading lower-cost, short-lived drifting sensors over large areas, using drones, will provide data to fill gaps and better inform models. These sensors may even collect environmental DNA (E-DNA). We’ll also see cooperation among sensors, whether these are intelligent sensors or just novel data fusion algorithms. Sensor data, disparate or similar, can be combined to provide a more complete picture. In some cases, even no data can be useful (data discovery). As more data is gathered by these means, we’ll see better models and predictions. Finally, expect more ocean economic services — the growth of the “New Blue Economy.” There will be wider cooperation across sectors, both inside and outside of the maritime community, that take advantage of technology and deliver data that affords new ways to make more informed decisions. For the past nine years, the Marine Technology Society has been following the progress of ocean observatories around the world and are proud to share our findings annually in ON&T. This year’s full update can be found at http://ont.news/2Bt4OWJ.
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