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September 19, 2023

AI & Seabed Mapping Project Recognized

This image details sandwaves in the Lowestoft Stanford Channel (UK) using data acquired by the AI-powered GeoSwath 4 bathymetric sonar. Image courtesy GeoAcoustics

This image details sandwaves in the Lowestoft Stanford Channel (UK) using data acquired by the AI-powered GeoSwath 4 bathymetric sonar. Image courtesy GeoAcoustics

GeoAcoustics, in partnership with the University of East Anglia’s School of Computing Sciences, was named as a finalist in the category of Technical Excellence at the national Knowledge Transfer Partnership awards, following the co-development of an AI solution aimed to improve the speed and ease of real-time seabed mapping.

GeoAcoustics, a manufacturer of sonar equipment for seabed mapping, approached UEA’s School of Computing Sciences, and feasibility study was first undertaken to see if AI technology could automatically remove unwanted noise from sonar data. This was carried out by two MSc Computing Science students, supervised by Dr. Wenjia Wang and Dr. Ben Milner, and a team from GeoAcoustics.

Following encouraging results, further R&D grants were awarded; an Enabling Innovation: Research To Application (EIRA) award, and an Innovate UK Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP). These enabled an AI module to be developed which was then evaluated using various benchmark data sets and sea trials.

This established that the AI was able to produce accurate and consistent results comparable to that of an experienced surveyor, without needing any human intervention and operating at a fraction of the time. The AI module was integrated into the company’s existing software and is capable of processing survey data in real-time, saving days or weeks of post-processing by trained human users.

Dr. Danny Websdale, the Knowledge Transfer Partnership Senior Research Associate at University of East Anglia for the duration of the AI development project and now an AI/ML Research Scientist at GeoAcoustics Ltd said: “Designing an AI system that can process and quality control sonar data was a challenging process over the course of two and a half   years, but together with the project team we were able to meet the intended goals and even exceed them by developing a system that provides real-time data on board the survey vessel, which is a unique capability that improves data quality while saving GeoAcoustics’ customers time and money.”

The new system has since been released by GeoAcoustics to its customers. 

“The AI system was integrated in our flagship seabed mapping product GeoSwath 4 and provided to customers as a free update," said Dr. Richard Dowdeswell, COO, GeoAcoustics Ltd. "Feedback has been wholly positive, and we’re delighted with how the KTP, and the excellent collaboration with Danny and the UEA School of Computing Sciences, turned out.”

The AI project, which was graded ‘Outstanding’ by Innovate UK, has been named as one of three finalists in the Technical Excellence category at the national KTP Awards, with winners announced on Thursday October 18, 2023.

Efforts to map the world’s oceans are ramping up, with new and emerging technologies leading the way.
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