Summer is an especially busy time for research vessels. The UNOLS fleet is making increasing use of containerized portable lab vans to shave some time and effort off of offloading the science party from one cruise and loading up the next mission and their gear. They also increase the flexibility of the research vessels by giving them the option to add additional science capabilities and facilities to vessel users. Options include adding:
This is a time lapse that we shot of the RV Hugh R Sharp returning from a multi-week scallop survey, unloading one lab van and then loading two more fresh ones before fueling up (both diesel and food) and departing on the next mission. Enjoy!
(Acronym Police: UNOLS = University-National Oceanographic Laboratory System and RVTEC = Research Vessel Technical Enhancement Committee).
For those unfamiliar with RVTEC, it is a committee organized around 1992 to “provide a forum for discussion among the technical support groups of the National Oceanographic Fleet” in order to “promote the scientific productivity of research programs that make use of research vessels and oceanographic facilities and to foster activities that enhance technical support for sea-going scientific programs” as listed in Annex V of the UNOLS charter. Membership is extended to UNOLS member institutions but “Participation shall be open to technical and scientific personnel at UNOLS and non-UNOLS organizations”.
The meeting agenda was pretty intense and we were pretty much straight out from Monday through Friday afternoon. There were a lot of scary smart people in the room doing some pretty amazing things in support of science operations at their respective institutions. I tried to compile a list of Tech Links on the ResearchVessels.org site to make it easier to find some of the various resources that were discussed at the meeting. I did the same thing at last years RVTEC meeting in Seattle but some additions and corrections were needed based on feedback from the members. I’m hoping that I’ll be able to obtain funding to attend next years meeting and perhaps the upcoming Inmartech meeting (look for a post on Inmartech soon).
I shot some video, made some fantastic contacts and had some interesting discussions at this years RVTEC meeting. If all goes smoothly, I’ll have a couple of new blog entries online this week to help share some of the wealth of knowledge.
Click on this image to visit the proof-of-concept panorama…
The image above is a screen shot of the proof-of-concept panoramic tour we came up with. Click the image above or this hyperlink to visit the actual panoramic tour. The pane on the left shows an interactive panorama of the various points of interest on the ship. The right-hand pane shows a scan of the deck and compartment that the panorama represents. If there is no user action, the tour will cycle through a complete 360 view of each panorama and will move onto the next panorama in the list if nothing is clicked. There are two drop-d0wns to the right, one above the deck layout to select a specific panorama and one below it to select a specific panorama.
A really cool feature of the product is the ability to take the panorama full-screen for a more immersive experience. To do so, just click on the arrow button in the top-right-hand corner next to the question mark symbol. Once in full-screen mode, you can easily cycle through the various pano’s by mousing over them near the bottom of the screen.
The 3DVista Show software allows you to insert hot-spots into the panorama’s as well that can either link to other pages/sites or to include an audio clip into the mix. This makes it quite easy to include additional information about a specific area or feature. I inserted an animated arrow pointing to the Multibeam Operator Station on the Main Deck -> Multibeam Tech Area that links out to the Reson Seabat 8101 Multibeam Echosounder posting.
The mind races with the various uses for this type of technology. It allows for mobility impaired individuals and class groups to tour a space that they’d ordinarily be unable to access. It also allows scientists to “look around” and get a feel for the spaces that they’d be using when they come onboard a vessel. For a future project, I’d like to get support do some panorama’s both inside and outside of the various UNOLS lab vans that would allow scientists to virtually stand in the lab vans and walk around them to see how they’re laid out. 3D panorama’s of research sites in remote locations like the arctic and antarctic also come to mind as does tours of mineral sample and other collections with hotspots included for the various specimens for links to additional information. The application of this tech abounds.
I talked with the folks at 3DVista and it looks like they offer a 15% academic discount for the software so be sure to ask about if if you’re going to purchase it. They also list a one-shot 360 degree pano lens and adapters to make shooting the digital pics a little easier. We used a 180 degree fish-eye lens for our pano shots, which means we did 3 shots at each location 120 degrees off from one-another and stitched them together with the 3DVista Stitcher program.
Many thanks to Lisa Tossey for taking the photos and getting this project rolling. I posted this as an unpolished proof-of-concept version. I look for the ready-for-prime-time panorama that she comes up with for the CEOE site. I also look forward to seeing any cool panoramas that are out there for research projects. Be sure to share your links.
I thought I’d take a minute to share some info on the small and mighty Mini-Top barebones system from Jetway Computer. (Not to be confused with the Small & Mighty Danny Diaz ;?) This unit is basically the guts of a netbook but without the screen so I’ll call it a NetPC. We are thinking about introducing them into the computing site here at work and I was pretty impressed by its feature set and tiny size. Keep in mind that there are several models of ITX barebone systems to choose from over at Jetway. We opted to go with the model JBC600C99-52W-BW, which retails for about $270 at NewEgg. The “-BW” at the end means that it ships with a metal bracket (shown in front of the included remote in pic above) that will allow you to mount the unit to the VESA mounts on the back of most LCD monitors.
Smaller than my hand
Since the unit is so small (see pic to the right) this allows you to tuck it it out of the way quite easily behind a monitor. It also comes with an angled metal bracket that allows you to stand it up on its end and stick-on rubber feet in case you want to lay it on its side. Note that this is a “barebones” system, which means that it’s up to you to add the memory (up to 4Gigs of RAM), a single interior hard drive (2.5″ SATA) and a monitor to the mix. We purchased a 60Gig OCZ Agility 2 SSD (solid state drive) to the unit and a couple of Gigs of DDR-2 800/667 SODimm memory to the box (purchased separately). The unit comes with a driver CD that has both Windows and Linux drivers on it, but since the unit doesn’t have an optical drive you’ll need to copy them to a thumb drive to use them. You’ll also need to figure out how to install an operating system on the unit as well. In our case, since we were installing Windows 7, we used the Windows 7 uSB/DVD Download Tool to take an ISO file version of our Windows 7 install DVD and create a bootable thumb drive with the Win7 install DVD contents on it. Installation was easy peasy.
Hardware specs are pretty impressive given its low cost and small size:
Intel Atom Dual-Core 525 CPU
nVidia ION2 Graphics Processor
DVI-I and HDMI 1.3 video outputs
Integrated Gigabit Ethernet & 802.11 b/g/n wifi
12V DC 60W power input so it can be easily run off battery or ships power
Microphone and Headphone connectors
LCD VESA mount (-BW model only)
Jetway handheld remote control
USB 2.0 ports (5) and eSata connection
As I mentioned, we’re investigating using these as replacements for some of the computing site computers. We installed Windows 7 on the system and between the dual-core Atom processor and the SSD I can’t tell any difference between performance on this system and the Core-2 Duo desktops that are already in the site. Other possible uses include as a thin client, a kiosk PC, a set-top box for large wall mounted LCD displays and as a small low-power PC aboard ship or inside buoys or other deployed equipment. The unit has both DVI and HDMI outputs, so you can easily drive a small LCD or a huge flat-panel TV as long as they have those inputs (as most do). The nVidia ION-2 graphics system will supposedly drive a full 1080p HD display. I took some pics of the units interior (below) so you can have an idea of how the systems are laid out inside and out.
Front Interior View
Rear Interior View
Side Interior View
These aren’t the only mini-PCs on the market. There are others like the Zotac ZBox and the Dell Zino HD and I’m sure plenty of others. They’re just the model that we’re playing with here at the college. Exciting times ahead as these units ramp up in performance and drop down in size and power draw.
We recently had guests come down to take a tour of the Lewes campus and the Research Vessel Hugh R Sharp. One of the guests was wheelchair-bound and was limited to only seeing the main deck of the ship as getting to the rest of the ship would have required going up and down stairs. The Sharp has accommodations for handicapped scientists, but they are pretty much limited to the main deck. This limits their access to just the aft working deck, the wet and dry labs, the galley and the conference room. The wheels started turning during that tour on how to share the rest of the technological awesomeness of the Sharp with others. I decided to take my trusty $100 video camera in hand and record a video tour of the ship for those that are unable to navigate the stairs, and for classrooms and visitors who just can’t make the trek to Lewes for a tour. It’s a tad long, running just over 40 minutes or so, but it covers almost the entire ship. Enjoy!
Many thanks to Captain Jimmy Warrington for taking time to do a whirlwind tour just prior to a science mission – as you can tell from the video, he’s a natural at relaying information about the RV Hugh R Sharp and its science capabilities.
One of the interesting innovations on the RV Hugh R Sharp is the incorporation of a “CTD Handling System” from Caley Ocean Systems. The video above was taken from the wet lab of a CTD Rosette being deployed and recovered using this system. If you search around on YouTube, you can find some interesting videos of crews deploying and recovering the CTD Rosette system. What you typically find is that you have one crane operator and then two or three crew members on deck with poles and/or ropes to try and guide the CTD back onto the deck. With the ship rocking and rolling out to sea, this can be a tad dangerous, especially when much of this work is done close to the waterline with waves splashing on deck.
The marine technician on the Sharp is up on the bridge level and looks down through windows at the wet lab area and beside the ship. This allows them to control the deployment and the recovery of the CTD from a much safer location. The Caley CTD Handling System has motion compensation built in to cancel out the roll and pitch of the ship and is designed to mostly eliminate the swaying of the CTD system. This makes for a much smoother and safer CTD deployment and recovery, which can occur quite often on many research vessels. The following pictures show the control station up on the bridge and an exterior view of the Caley CTD Handling System onboard the Sharp.
Next time I’m out on the Sharp, I’ll try to get a view of the system in action from outside the wet lab.
Is the system perfect? No, they still have some kinks to work out and with Caley located over in the UK, turn-around time can be pretty slow at times. The vessel operators are taking some lumps and trying to iron the kinks out of a system that can help make it a little safer to do routine underway CTD casts. Their efforts should be applauded.
Lucky me, I happened to be in the right place at the right time. I was over at the CEOE Marine Operations Building and I ran into Brian Kidd, a marine technician aboard the RV Hugh R. Sharp. Brian is the resident expert on multibeam echosounder systems and he agreed to talk on camera about some of the data acquisition systems that he’s involved with. While we were talking I noticed that the Scanfish was opened up and getting prepped for an upcoming science mission, so Brian volunteered to talk about the Scanfish as well. The segment on the multibeam is a tad longer as we had to do some travelling around the ship and ashore to cover the various components as it was being serviced. The multibeam video will be posted shortlyhas been posted and is available here.
The Scanfish was originally a product of GMI of Denmark. GMI was purchased by EIVA, who integrated the Scanfish into their suite of hardware and software solutions in support of marine science and surveying. EIVA hosts a PDF showing specs for the Scanfish MK II on their site. The MK II looks like it is the equivalent of the Scanfish we discussed with Brian. EIVA also provides smaller Scanfish units including the Scanfish Mini and the Scanfish MK I.
The Scanfish is “flown” and monitored via a conductive cable that feeds data and parameters back to EIVA’s “Flight Software” – which the technician uses to control the Scanfish, the winch and to display and log the data being collected.
In addition to housing a CTD (which stands for Conductivity + Temperature + Depth) sensor, the Scanfish also supports the following optional sensors: