Use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV’s) for underwater noise assessment [Poster]

2017-12-15T14:47:26Z (GMT) by Steve Lloyd Paul Lepper Simon Pomeroy
The underwater and airborne acoustic environment forms a critical part of many marine mammals life cycles. Assessment and development of understanding of these acoustic soundscapes is often vital in understanding many marine life and human operation interactions as well as species to species interactions in the natural acoustic environments. Traditional passive acoustic methodologies used for underwater sound and noise measurements include static hydrophones, autonomous loggers, boat-based deployments, towed arrays, drifter systems etc. Most of these systems however also rely on expensive and sometimes hazardous deployments and retrieval methods. The rapid growth in Unmanned Ariel Vehicles (UAV) technologies in recent years has lead to investigation of these platforms to act as enhanced aerial visual platforms for observing marine mammal behaviour, abundance estimation etc. These systems are however often limited by battery life to relatively short in flight deployments. However these platforms can also offer the opportunity for rapid deployment of smart hydrophone systems over a relatively large spatial areas to include acoustic behaviours and sound scape analysis by flying to a site landing on the water and then deploying underwater sensors. Whilst on the waters surface relative power consumption is significantly lower than in-flight allowing significantly longer deployments. Smart systems will then return to some base point with minimal human interaction. A prototype multi-rotor system has been developed and tested in an open water site, capable of flying to site, landing on the water, deploying a wideband hydrophone for underwater noise assessment and then returning to base. Measurements include underwater noise self-noise analysis in-flight, landing, static and take-off and potential implications to marine wildlife. These developments and trials have demonstrated the overall feasibility of wide-scale rapid hydrophone deployment using UAVs for sound field and marine mammal behaviour analysis.