Following the crowd

10 Feb 2017

A plot of the recorded data for the Channel Island sea area

A plot of the recorded data for the Channel Island sea area

Can crowd-sourced bathymetry improve our charts and reduce the cost of surveying? This new data resource appears to be gaining legitimacy in the upper echelons of the hydrographic organisations and one of the main providers is UK-headquartered geo-survey research and development group, TeamSurv.

In its quest to improve the quality of bathymetric data available to the hydrographic authorities, geo-survey specialist and marine software developer, TeamSurv, has launched a community-based project to enable all of us who work at sea to share valuable bathymetric information with the hydrographers, enabling them to produce accurate data in areas that might not have had a full survey for nearly a century – if at all.

The TeamSurv application requires the installation of a small data-logging device on board the participating vessel that records and stores depth and positional data via a NMEA connection to the boat’s instrument system. Designed for self-installation, the logger comes with a clear and explicit manual, but for those in doubt there is comprehensive connection and compatibility information on TeamSurv’s website and they can also ring the free technical advice line.

TeamSurv supplies USB and Wi-Fi loggers. The former records NMEA data onto a USB memory stick for uploading later to the company’s main database. This involves removing the USB stick occasionally and plugging it into a PC with Internet access.

It’s recently launched Wi-Fi logger, however, works in conjunction with a smartphone or tablet. The logger stores the recorded data until the user gets within Wi-Fi range of the Internet, when it can be uploaded.

Currently, TeamSurv is loaning out USB data loggers free of charge to anyone who wishes to participate in the project, in return for a commitment to upload the data. There is a small charge (£99) for the Wi-Fi logger, but it comes with a free app that not only facilitates uploading, but also enables the instrument data to be viewed remotely.

For larger vessels the company can stream the data over VSAT. Trials are also underway to send the data as binary AIS messages from a Class-A AIS, whereupon they are picked up by ExactEarth’s satellite AIS system before being transmitted to TeamSurv’s servers.

Each vessel’s input is bundled with other resources, such as LIDAR tidal data, to create a highly accurate view of the seabed in any particular area. Once received, the logged data is processed via a network of powerful Cloud-based computers, combining the tracks and creating new or updated bathymetric data.

Not only is TeamSurv’s resource invaluable to the hydrographic organisations, but it also has uses in a wide range of other marine activities. The bathymetry can be input to habitat mapping and tidal models, and areas that suffer from a shifting seabed due to storms, fast tidal flows or frequent vessel movements can use time sliced data to monitor any changes, triggering dredging or a more detailed multi-beam survey.

By Duncan Kent

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