Tech File

High-speed, High-resolution Interferometric Synthetic Aperture Sonar

"Survey Once, Reuse Many Times"

As efforts to map the world’s seabed gains steam, David Shea, Kraken’s SVP of Engineering, discusses the benefits of using high-speed, high-resolution Interferometric Synthetic Aperture Sonar (InSAS) for hydrographic applications.

By Greg Trauthwein

Kraken’s KATFISH system back onboard after completing Phase 1 of offshore survey work under the OceanVision project

Photo courtesy Kraken

There is a recent, relevant trend among a number of nations to merge their mine hunting and hydrographic survey requirements, as both applications require high resolution and high accuracy in shallow and very shallow water environments. “We are keen to see data being repurposed for all of these applications, and are driving the philosophy of "survey once, reuse many times," said Shea in a recent interview with Marine Technology Reporter TV, noting the obvious benefits of efficiency and cost-effectiveness by repurposing the same datasets.

Shea has a bird’s eye view of the topic, based in Canada and working on the Kraken team since its start in 2012, a time when Kraken had just six employees, growing by 2021 to more than 250 people with the recent acquisition of PanGeo Subsea, a Canadian underwater imaging company.

“Kraken's specialization, our bread and butter, is high resolution and ultra-high-resolution subsea imaging,” said Shea, noting that this is accomplished via a combination of sensor technologies, underwater robotic systems, underwater platforms and software solutions. “Synthetic aperture sonar – a very high-resolution side-looking sonar system – is one of our core products,” said Shea. It's an interferometric system, which means that it uses and measures the angle of arrival of the sound to be able to provide both high-resolution backscatter (or acoustic imagery) of the seabed, as well as bathymetry (or topographical measurements) of the seabed.

Better Data @ Faster Speeds

According to Shea, one of the interesting trends on the commercial and the defense side is the emergence of combination technologies. “This is where you're seeing the military markets, whether you're using traditional mine hunting, mine countermeasures requirements for very high-resolution seabed imaging, paralleled with hydrographic requirements, where we're looking for higher resolution, shallow water imaging, higher resolution shallow water bathymetric measurements.”

He said the Kraken team is “seeing both of these being pursued in parallel to the point where some industries, some companies, and some government organizations have actually identified that fundamentally these are the same requirements. So, rather than pursuing two acquisitions, pursuing two sets of sensors, pursuing two vessels and two operational systems, you can do all of this with one combined entity, one combined platform.”

Shea sees the trend as particularly beneficial for the Kraken value proposition, as “we are positioned very well because we've been advocating for the use and the reuse of very high-resolution seabed imaging and bathymetric data for many years.”

Put to the Test

Kraken has been demonstrating this value proposition through its OceanVision Project. The OceanVision is a three-year, $18.8 million project focused on the development of new marine technologies and products to enable an underwater robotics data acquisition and data analytics as a service business. “We've been working with partners in the defense industry, partners in the oil and gas industry, partners in the fishing industry, as well as government organizations in the hydrographic industry, who have been going out with our robot, sensor and software technology, surveying very large areas (primarily focused in the Atlantic and in and around Newfoundland and Nova Scotia on the east coast of Canada) and re-purposing that data for all of those different customers and partners.”

So with a single benthic habitat mapping effort, Kraken is helping to deliver a single data set that disparate stakeholders can utilize for their specific purposes.

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August 2021