National Defence works with industry to protect marine mammals

April 27, 2022 - Royal Canadian Navy

Defence Research and Development Canada (DRDC) and Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) researchers recently conducted a second field trial of an unmanned surface vessel that could be used to mitigate harm to whales and other marine mammals during military operations.

Testing of the surf-board shaped Data Xplorer, a solar-powered ocean drone, took place March 10, 2022, in waters by the Canadian Forces Maritime Experimental and Test Ranges near Nanoose Bay, B.C.

The first testing under this collaboration took place in December.

As it bobbed along the waves, the Data Xplorer harvested ocean data through a towed passive hydrophone array, and sent processed data via satellite to a command centre. The field trial was to validate the drone’s ability to detect and identify marine mammals, and to estimate their location using the acoustic recordings of their unique calls.

DRDC researchers played simulated whale calls from a fixed point in the test range. As the Data Xplorer navigated the water, the data sent back demonstrated it was able to accurately detect and classify the sounds, and estimate where they came from in real time.

The surf-board shaped Data Xplorer, a solar-powered ocean drone.
Caption

Testing of the surf-board shaped Data Xplorer, a solar-powered ocean drone, took place March 10, 2022, in waters by the Canadian Forces Maritime Experimental and Test Ranges near Nanoose Bay, B.C. 

While the analysis took place in Nanoose Bay, approximately 110 kilometres away from Victoria, the movement of the Data Xplorer was remotely controlled by Open Ocean Robotics staff in their Victoria office. The solar-powered drone was piloted remotely for the testing and is capable of safe, autonomous transit along a predetermined course using data, a radar reflector and maps to avoid collisions. It can also right itself in rough seas from 2.5 to four metres.

This second trial brought the reality of a decision-making tool to assist with marine mammals risk mitigation one step closer to fruition.

Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada worked with DRDC through the Innovative Solutions Canada program to enable this research. Technology was co-developed with locally based JASCO Applied Sciences, and a Victoria-based startup called Open Ocean Robotics, which provides a clean-tech solution to collecting data through solar-powered un-crewed surface vessels.

DND and the CAF are committed to environmental stewardship and mitigating the impact of active sonar on the marine environment, as part of the Government of Canada’s Oceans Protection Plan. DRDC, the science and technology organization of DND, is pursuing multiple, connected avenues of research to develop solutions to support this commitment.

Report a problem or mistake on this page
Please select all that apply:

Thank you for your help!

You will not receive a reply. For enquiries, contact us.

Date modified: