Autonomous marine mapping, current situation and future possibilities


In the last decade marine robotics and autonomous research has started to grow in the Red Sea, led by KAUST researchers, marine startup companies and now with the various new Giga Projects.

In the early days this work often had a heavy human component for the launch, recovery and control. New emerging technologies for remotely telemetry are helping to solve this, as are combined autonomous survey solutions.

Using multiple autonomous systems, on the sea surface, underwater and airborne in a single survey campaign is proving to be extremely efficient with significantly more data being produced. Using this multiple vehicle approach is helping to fix the age old issue with marine survey to Map the Gaps.

The next challenge will be connecting all these systems in real time and to map in unison to provide accurate and reliable survey data.



Frank Mallon is co-founder and director of Marine and Archaeology at Shamal Technologies, a data centric survey company specializing in autonomous airborne, terrestrial and underwater surveys.

Prior to setting up Shamal Technologies Frank worked for 12 years at KAUST as an Oceanographic Specialist and was in charge of the underwater robotics fleet for several years and was responsible for bringing the first unmanned surface vehicle to KSA.

Before moving to Saudi in 2009 Frank worked as an archaeological Director in Ireland and the UK, mostly underwater on multiple submerged archaeological sites and shipwrecks.