This website uses cookies primarily for visitor analytics. Certain pages will ask you to fill in contact details to receive additional information. On these pages you have the option of having the site log your details for future visits. Indicating you want the site to remember your details will place a cookie on your device. To view our full cookie policy, please click here. You can also view it at any time by going to our Contact Us page.

Dolphin-inspired sensor technology to boost detection capabilities

04 January 2016

Sensor technology inspired by Bottlenose Dolphins could help improve subsea detection in a range of applications, thanks to a new collaborative research project.

The project - involving Heriot-Watt’s Ocean Systems Laboratory, high-tech sonar and underwater systems company, Hydrason Solutions, and CENSIS, the Scottish Innovation Centre for sensor and imaging systems - will develop an enhanced wideband sonar system based on the principles of the marine mammals’ detection capabilities and which will dramatically improve the range of data collected by wideband sonar devices.

The technology will enable users to locate underwater objects accurately, as well as identifying their structure and composition, without making any direct contact. Existing sensor products cannot penetrate objects, instead providing only an image outline.

The system could have a variety of applications, helping surveyors to find blockages in pipelines, determine whether an underwater support is still structurally sound or identify wildlife on the seabed.

“Bottlenose Dolphins are extremely good at detecting objects in the water; using sonar they can detect fish in the sand which can’t be seen by the eye," says Dr Keith Brown, Associate Professor at Heriot-Watt’s School of Engineering and Physical Sciences. "Earlier research also showed that dolphins can differentiate between the contents of a variety of filled aluminium bottles using signal processing.

“We analysed the characteristics of these signals and, using transducers, have reproduced frequencies within the same parameters: as close as possible to those created by dolphins. This breakthrough means our new wideband sonar system can provide its users with even greater environmental, seabed and structural detail. It could, for example, be used to detect a variety of underwater objects, hairline cracks in oil rigs’ support legs or changes to the sediment on the seafloor.”

In addition to providing users with additional information, the system will be deployable on range of nautical vehicles, including autonomous underwater vehicles and remotely operated vehicles. Multiple surveys can be conducted from one ship, making the device an economic way of collecting data.


Print this page | E-mail this page