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Underwater Time Of Flight Image Acquisition system

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - UTOFIA (Underwater Time Of Flight Image Acquisition system)

Reporting period: 2016-08-01 to 2018-04-30

Marine resources contribute 15% to the overall amount of animal protein consumed worldwide. The Waterborne Strategic Research Agenda (SRA) predicts a growth in the marine sector of 50 % during the next 15 years. The Blue Growth program under H2020 requested better vision under water. It is believed that better vision will provide better observations, safer operations and better data on e.g. fish abundances and marine habitat status. Such data are valuable to support European Union marine and fisheries policies.

UTOFIA offers a compact and cost-effective underwater imaging system with built-in illumination. By using range-gated imaging, the system extends the imaging range up to a factor 2 over conventional video systems, while at the same time providing video-rate 3D information. This will fill the current gap between short-range, high-resolution conventional video and long-range low-resolution sonar systems. 3D images are an enabling factor for automatic monitoring and for quantitative assessment of fish and its environment.

UTOFIA's major leap in performance and cost-efficiency is made possible through an innovative combination of state-of-the-art solid-state technologies. This takes range-gated imaging from a curiosity for specialist use, to a camera suitable for a broad range of professional, commercial, and industrial applications.

The primary aim of UTOFIA is to:
Enable cost-efficient high-performance monitoring of marine resources facilitating a sustainable European economy and to contribute to economical growth in the marine sector.

Main results:

- A cost efficient (35k€) and very compact (<7 litres) system is realized. Deployment and usage is easy. Tests in both lab and real conditions confirm extended range, and effective elimination of backscatter. The strongest performance improvement is in low-light conditions (deep or dark) where other compact camera system with artificial illumination have a more limited range than in ambient light conditions.

- UTOFIA provides 3D data at a rate of >10 Hz with an accuracy down to 1-2 cm. The 3D ability is ideally suited for sizing of fish and objects and for collision avoidance. Good 3D performance above 10 m range is demonstrated. High resolution 3D at such ranges is something completely new.

- UTOFIA has been benchmarked towards capturing images of both seabed and fish. A large potential in characterization of fish (size, species, behaviour) is demonstrated.

- The system will be sold through Subsea Tech. First units are expected to be sold during 2018.

- Feedback from the market is that the 3D aspect is the most interesting part of the UTOFIA system. Follow-up projects towards biomass and fish behaviour have been funded.
The success of this project is the sum of efforts from all the partners in the different work packages in the project.

In the early months of the project a proof of concept version was made based on off-the-shelf components. Also an end-user requirement survey was performed. The result of these actions set the direction for this project.

Since UTOFIA contains a laser, eye-safety has been a concern. Trials were performed at DTU Aqua (Denmark) to investigating the impact of the laser on fish. Swimming behaviour was not affected, and no measurable stress responses were observed from heart monitors placed inside several fish. The latest version fits in the lowest laser safety class.

Following the first version, two succeeding iterative versions have been made. Each new version with lower volume and more laser power. The laser module from Bright Solutions is powerful, rugged and compact. It has worked flawlessly during the project.

A critical element of both range extension and 3D capability is the image sensor used. The project employs two different sensor principles, one from ODOS and one from Fraunhofer IMS. The ODOS sensor was available from the start of the project and has been a working horse for software and firmware development. For the Fraunhofer IMS sensor, we have tested different pixel architectures and developed a new sensor with 320x240 pixels. Each pixel has two active areas that could be timed separately relative to the laser emission. This opens for new image algorithms particularly suited for longer ranges.

The compact marine housing is rated to 300 meters depth. It includes a heat management that use sea water for cooling to stabilize the internal temperature. Versions for larger depths will be available.

UTOFIA can capture 3D in both static and dynamic scenes. Algorithms were developed by SINTEF and embedded in the camera hardware for interpreting the sensor data. This effort resulted in a camera upgrade that allowed live 3D in spring 2017. Image processed data is streamed to the surface at up to 600Mbit/s over an Ethernet line. During the project an operator interface (GUI) has been developed and visualization of the data can be recorded and viewed on a topside computer. Novel directions for high-contrast imaging have been addressed for the visualization. Furthermore, an API for easy access to the camera data is included.

Dissemination activities included maintaining the website, social media outlets (twitter @UTOFIA_H2020, Facebook, ResearchGate) and videos posted on YouTube, preparing a total of 6 half-yearly newsletters, attending conferences and tradeshows, onsite visits, teleconferences, workshops and demonstrations to end-users, and analysing dissemination metrics. These activities also involved writing and publishing articles for trade journals and peer reviewed scientific journals.

Dissemination and exploitation strategies beyond the lifetime of the project focus on:
- Commercialization of the UTOFIA system. A plan for manufacturing of the first units has been made. This plan will be revised according to market feedback.
- Development of UTOFIA system features to target specific stake-holder applications.
In particular, UTOFIA has spawned several spin-off projects that are designed to improve the exploitation potential of the system.
The project has progressed beyond the state-of-the-art by:
- Demonstrating up to 2 times range extension capability using range-gated images
- Real-time cm-resolution full-field 3D measurements also in turbid waters. (>10 Hz 3D imaging)
- Development of a working prototype, compact and cost-efficient

UTOFIA is a competitive and cost-efficient observation platform for subsea applications. We believe it will supports marine science and ocean discovery. UTOFIA has produced high-quality measurements in a variety of observation tests in coastal and oceanic waters. The combined video and 3D capability of the system has been identified by stakeholders as a particularly beneficial feature allowing quantification of fish numbers, as well as their size, species and behaviour. This is useful information for environmental and fisheries policies. The 3D capability also supports autonomy for subsea robots, with the added advantage of increased range enabling safer operations. UTOFIA lends itself well to seabed characterisation and litter identification, as well as imaging of man-made structures. The interest in UTOFIA among marine scientists has already resulted in spin-off projects.