From June to August 2019, the Oceangate Titanic Survey Expedition will conduct a series of week-long manned submersible operations in the north Atlantic Ocean in an effort to document and model the wreck of the Titanic. 2G Robotics will play a critical role in this operation, by providing dynamic laser scanning to generate a 3D point cloud model of the wreck.
According to Oceangate, the wreck is deteriorating and being weakened due to biochemical processes that are eating away manganese, iron and sulfur out of the steel. The BBC estimates that the site will no longer be intact after 20 years. This mission will be critical in preserving this chapter of maritime history, before it is lost.
Collected point cloud data, when combined with still images, GPS, video and sonar, will provide an objective basis to assess the decay of the wreck over time and help document and preserve its submerged legacy. As the first crewed mission of its kind since 2005, this survey will take full advantage of cutting edge metrology, bathymetry and optical technology to provide the highest data precision ever collected on this wreck.
TheOceangate Titanic Survey Expedition will also be the first time that the wreck has ever been laser scanned. Previous missions have relied on sonar. It will be the first of many anticipated annual missions, each with the goals of:
- Creating detailed 3D models of the shipwreck and debris field, using multi-beam sonar, laser scanning and photogrammetry
- Supplement the work done on previous scientific expeditions for the continued scientific study of the site
- Document the condition of the wreck with the highest levels of detail ever achieved
- Document the flora and fauna inhabiting the wreck to better assess changes in the habitat and maritime heritage site
This mission will face a number of technical challenges:
- Since the wreck has deteriorated significantly over time, high-precision point cloud analysis will be required in order to identify artifacts.
- At a depth of 3800 meters, this mission will approach the operating limits of many subsea components
- Since GPS can’t penetrate to these depths, sophisticated navigation systems, including time sync with DVL, INS and USBL will be used to establish location and metrology coordinates. These challenges become even more difficult as you approach subcentimetric levels of point cloud accuracy.
- Since this is a UNESCO world heritage site, there may be limitations in terms of how close the submersible could get to the wreck.
- The high operating costs of this mission require rapid, accurate and consistent data capture.
The expedition is scheduled to depart from St. John’s, Newfoundland in June 2019 with scientists, content experts, and mission specialists joining the crew in a series of week-long missions. Among the 30 person team will be 2 technical experts from the 2G Robotics team, who will be charged with ensuring the success of the dynamic laser scanning component of this mission.
In preparation for the mission, members of the 2G Robotics team have been sent to Little Harbour, Bahamas, from April 8 to 15, where they will be working with the OceanGate team to integrate and test the ULS 500 Pro laser scanner with the Titan manned submersible and its navigation systems. The team will conduct practice runs, and ensure that the equipment will perform consistently and overcome any adverse circumstances that it may encounter on the final mission,
Oceangate estimates fewer than 200 people have ever seen the Titanic in person, and the window of opportunity is closing with every passing year. Readers interested in tracking the progress of this mission can do so by following 2G Robotics’ Twitter, YouTube and LinkedIn accounts. Readers can also subscribe to the 2G Robotics email newsletter, for case studies, source data and other mission reports as they become available.