MTS Committees Present at International Seabed Authority's Workshop on Robotics & Automation in Deep Sea Mining


As part of the International Seabed Authority's expert scoping workshop "Charting Future Horizons: Harnessing Advanced Technologies for the Protection and Sustainable Use of the International Seabed," held on April 3-5, 2024, Alex Barnard from the MTS Marine Mineral Resources Committee presented, "Robotics and Automation in Deep Sea Mining," with co-authors Bramley Murton (National Oceanography Centre), Andrew Ziegwied (MTS's Uncrewed Maritime Systems Committee and Open Ocean Robotics), and Justin Manley (President of MTS). This presentation emerged from a collaboration between MTS's Marine Mineral Resources and Uncrewed Maritime Systems Committees, and the National Oceanography Centre. It highlighted the important role of advanced marine technology in seabed management and protection, emphasizing the need for mission-specific platforms and sensors for environmental and resource assessment. The content was organized into two modules: Environmental and Resource Assessment and Emerging Trends in Robotics. 


This module is a blueprint for how technology can improve efficiency and reduce operational expenditure during environmental and resource assessments. It focuses on the technologies and methodologies used for 1) collecting environmental impact assessment level data, and 2) mineral resource assessment, on large areas of the seabed, specifically for polymetallic nodule resources. The Towed Ocean Bottom Instrument (TOBI) system presented forms part of a collaborative and interdisciplinary approach for exploration. TOBI sidescan acquisition recovers a broad swath of data (~6 km) and leverages Mie scattering, which identifies nodule abundance based on acoustic backscatter intensity, to quantify polymetallic nodules on the seabed. Optical imaging data, also acquired by the system, provides ground truthing of the sidescan and environmental impact assessment level data. Combined with full water column sensing, high-resolution multibeam, and sub-bottom profiling, the TOBI system provides a rapid environmental impact, and resource assessment tool. The potential exists for future TOBI systems to be operated from ASVs, with possible fleet options available. 


The second module explores the latest advancements in marine robotics technology, particularly the development of autonomous systems. It discusses innovations such as the integration of artificial intelligence in robotic operations, which improve the autonomy and capabilities of underwater and surface vehicles. This module also addresses the scalability and economic aspects of deploying such technologies, highlighting how they can reduce operational costs and enhance data collection efficiency. The emphasis is on how these technological advancements can lead to better stewardship of ocean resources and more effective conservation of the marine environment. 

Collectively, these modules show the potential of emerging technologies to facilitate more efficient, safer, and environmentally responsible marine resource management. 


  • Towed Instrument System (TOBI), National Oceanography Centre
  • HUGIN Infinity
  • Aquanaut/Hydranaut, Nauticus Robotics
  • Sunfish, Sunfish Incorporated 
  • Mayflower Autonomous Ship
  • Argo Floats
  • Sofar Drifters
  • DataExplorer, Open Ocean Robotics
  • Coralbots


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