Iain Vincent, BSc (Hons) Marine Environmental Science, 2010
Submarines for sustainability
71 per cent of our planet is water. Understanding our oceans better is key to tackling climate change and developing more sustainable lifestyles. Portsmouth alum Iain Vincent BSc (Hons) Marine Environmental Science ’10 is pioneering projects that will improve our knowledge of the deep.
Iain wears two hats, professionally. As Business Development & Sales Manager at Planet Ocean he works with leading manufacturers of marine and aquatic scientific instruments, to support research and marine environment measurement and monitoring services across the UK. He is also Director of ecoSUB Robotics, a collaboration between Planet Ocean and the National Oceanography Centre, to develop Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV) systems.
At ecoSUB, Iain leads and develops high tech R&D programmes. The customer base is diverse and global - from research institutes exploring our oceans, to offshore energy companies seeking to understand their impact on the aquatic environment. The ecoSUB team offers compelling solutions to the challenges these customers face.
It costs around £20k-£30k per day to run a standard research vessel. Daily charter rates can add up to another £200k on top of that. Not only is this incredibly expensive; it’s also inefficient, as typical equipment only enables you to measure and sample from fixed points around your vessel.
‘If you look at how many data points are collected and the vastness of the oceans,’ Iain says, ‘it’s a ridiculously small amount of data that we’re looking at and making some very big assumptions. The nice thing with autonomy is you can expand your range and data gathering capability for a very low cost.’
ecoSUB develop micro-AUVs ranging from 60cm-1m long and weighing no more than 12kg. You can hold them in one hand and drop them into the water, where they ‘wake up’ and go off to complete a mission to depths of 2.5km.
The cost of a traditional AUV starts at around £500k. ecoSUB are developing systems that cost as little as £10k. Battery powered AUVs also make for a significantly lower carbon footprint than fuel-hungry boats. And ever-evolving AI and acoustic modem tech means ecoSUB AUVs can ping their locations to one another and ensure they each play a useful role across a given area. Loaded with the latest micro sensor technology, they can measure parameters such as salinity, temperature and biogeochemical properties in the water, and collect sonar or camera images.
All of this means ecoSUB clients can afford to safely deploy many more AUVs, covering much larger areas of the ocean and gathering more data. This allows more robust modelling, which means better outcomes for science - and for society, since data drives decisions around issues like climate change and management of marine resources.
As well as providing happy memories of rocky shore surveys, Iain is in no doubt that his experience of studying at Portsmouth ‘underpins everything’ he does today. It gives him the ability to talk marine science with engineers, and to better understand what customers - especially those doing research fieldwork at sea - need from Planet Ocean and ecoSUB.
Enabling people to do more is really important. We have this notion of democratising the AUV, to be able to drive down costs and increase accessibility.