Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs) can have negative consequences for both marine life and human health, so it can be helpful to have early warning of when they’re on the way. Algal blooms deep below the surface can be especially difficult to detect, which is why [kutluhan_aktar] built an AI-assisted algal bloom detector.
After taking images of deep algal blooms with a boroscope, [kutluhan_aktar] trained a machine learning algorithm on them so a Raspberry Pi 4 could recognize future occurrences. For additional water quality information, the device also has an Arduino Nano connected to pH, TDS (total dissolved solids), and water temperature sensors which then are fed to the Pi via a serial connection. Once a potential bloom is spotted, the user can be notified via WhatsApp and appropriate measures taken.
The ocean is a hostile environment for man-made equipment, no matter its purpose. Whether commercial fishing, scientific research, or military operations, salt water is constantly working to break them all down. The ocean is also home to organisms well-adapted to their environment so DARPA is curious if we can leverage their innate ability to survive. The Persistent Aquatic Living Sensors (yes, our ocean PALS) program is asking for creative ideas on how to use sea life to monitor ocean activity.
Its basic idea is simple: everyday business of life in the ocean are occasionally interrupted by a ship, a submarine, or some other human activity. If this interruption can be inferred from sea life response, getting that data could be much less expensive than building sensors to monitor such activity directly. Everyone who applies to this research program will have the chance to present their own ideas on how to turn this idea into reality.
The program announced it will “study natural and modified organisms” (emphasis ours.) Keeping an open mind to bio-engineering ideas will be interesting, but adding biohacking to the equation also adds to the list of potential problems. While PALS will keep its research within contained facilities, any future military deployment obviously will not. Successful developments in this area will certainly raise eyebrows and face resistance against moving beyond the lab.
Alex Williams pulled off an incredible engineering project. He developed an Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV) which uses a buoyancy engine rather than propellers as its propulsion mechanism and made the entire project Open Source and Open Hardware.
The design aims to make extended duration missions a possibility by using very little power to move the vessel. What’s as remarkable as the project itself is that Alex made a goal for himself to document the project to the level that it is fully reproducible. His success in both of these areas is what makes the Open Source Underwater Glider the perfect Grand Prize winner for the 2017 Hackaday Prize.
We got to sit down with Alex the morning after he won to talk about the project and the path he took to get here.