Marine Sensors: Discovering our Oceans and Delivering Data to Industry

Published by Erin Donahue

The state of the ocean is an important indicator of the overall health of the planet and our oceans comprise some of the richest and most diverse ecosystems on Earth. At the same time, the worldwide ocean economy, enabled by new technologies, is growing with revenues projected to reach $3 trillion by 2030.  As ocean technology industry continues to grow on both sides of the border, it will offer new opportunities for innovation and collaboration between Canadian and New England companies. 

New England is typically well known for its marine robotics industry as it is home to leaders such as Teledyne Marine, Hydroid, L3 Ocean Server, General Dynamics as well as numerous research institutions and start-ups.   However, sensors are equally important to the New England and Canadian marine industry.  According to the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), ninety-five percent of the oceans are unobserved or unobservable to the human eye. Sciences knows less about our oceans then we the surface of the moon.  Marine sensors are our eyes and ear underwater helping us to better understand the seventy percent of our planet covered by water. Whether they are deployed on fixed mooring, towed arrays, or autonomous vehicles or gliders, marine sensors provide a wealth of data for a variety of applications including:

  • Defense: Navies around the globe use marine sensors for a variety of applications ranging from mine countermeasures and anti-submarine warfare to subsea navigation. 
  • Environmental monitoring: marine sensors can provide scientists and regulators with useful information about the health of our oceans. Marine sensors have been deployed to detect red tides outbreaks that can affect shellfish farms.  Similarly, scientists are using marine acoustic sensors to monitor marine mammals such as right whales.   
  • Research and climate change: Ocean acidification is occasionally referred to as climate change’s ‘evil twin’. Chemical and physical marine sensors can monitor and detect changes in marine ecosystems, such as rising PH, that are triggered by climate change. 
  • Offshore energy: Mapping the seabed to better plan for siting offshore energy projects as well as deploying sensors to detect ocean conditions that will impact offshore operations. In the past year, New England has seen a number of calls for marine sensors to support the nascent offshore wind industry.

Canada is home to many leading marine sensor companies that can provide solutions for these application areas. In January 2020, the Canadian Consulate General in Boston partnered with the Blue Innovation Symposium in Newport, RI to bring a delegation of Canadian marine technology companies to New England. The theme of this year’s conference was Ocean Sensors and the Next Wave of Data.  

Here is a quick snap shot of some of the companies who joined us in January: 

2G Robotics– 2G Robotics offers underwater optical inspection systems for the subsea Oil and Gas and Military markets. They provide optical sensor modules, including stills camera and laser scanner, for use on autonomous underwater vehicles. 

Dartmouth Ocean Technologies Dartmouth Ocean Technologies Inc. (DOT) designs, fabricates and markets Instrumented sensor platforms (towed, moored, profiling). This capability includes the integration of their Lab-On-a-Chip (LOC) sensors (Phosphate and environmental DNA) and other OEM sensors for use in the oceans and other bodies of water. 

Geospectrum Technologies Inc. specializes in underwater acoustic transducers and systems. Meeting the needs of customers as designers and manufacturers of hydrophones and sound projectors as well as consultants on the integration and testing of acoustic systems. 

Kraken Robotic Systems Inc. Kraken Robotics Inc. is a marine technology company engaged in the design, development and marketing of advanced sensors, software and underwater robotics for Unmanned Maritime Vehicles used in military and commercial applications. Kraken is a leading innovator of synthetic aperture sonar (SAS), an underwater imaging technology that dramatically improves seabed surveys by providing ultra-high resolution imagery at superior coverage rates. 

Ocean Sonics Ocean Sonics designs and manufactures icListen, the world’s first smart digital hydrophone. Compact and easy to use, its small size makes it the perfect tool for sound data collection. Their products listen in real-time and improve decision making or use as an acoustic recorder for long term deployments.  

PanGeo Subsea Inc PanGeo Subsea is a marine geophysical-geotechnical service delivery company specializing in high resolution true 3D volumetric acoustic imaging solutions to mitigate risk in offshore installations.  PanGeo offers sub-seabed solutions to enable accurate positioning and continuous visualization of cables and pipelines and the identification of buried anomalies threatening their integrity during depth of burial surveys and decommissioning; true 3D volumetric imaging and accurate positioning of buried geo-hazards (boulders) and Unexploded Ordnances (UXO), enabling de-risking and micro-siting of offshore wind farms piles.    

Pro-Oceanus Systems Oceanus designs and manufactures dissolved gas sensors for oceanographic research, aquaculture, and groundwater monitoring around the globe. Pro-Oceanus offers more options for dissolved CO2 measurement than any other company in the world. 

RBR Ltd. RBR makes instruments to measure the blue ocean. From the ocean abyss to the polar ice cap, our sensors track water parameters: temperature, depth, salinity, dissolved gases, pH, and many others. 

Sensor Technology SensorTechnology Ltd. is a leading designer and manufacturer of piezoelectric ceramic solutions, custom acoustic transducers and custom hydrophones. 

Of course, as sensing technologies improve, researchers and end users are increasing able to collect terabytes of data in short periods of time. This in turn drives the demand for machine learning and AI that can assist in processing this data and delivering valuable intelligence. CIDCO and Deep Sense are here to help. CIDCO, Development Center for Ocean Mapping in Quebec, is developing AI to automatically detect abandoned fishing gear. Deep Sense, a partnership with IBM and Dalhousie University, supports researchers and ocean businesses to solve their data challenges. 

Interested in learning more about Canadian marine tech companies? See the new map developed by Canada’s Ocean Supercluster and The Ocean Technology Alliance of Canada: