From ROV's to Smart Reefs: CMR's Journey supporting Marine Research


This presentation explores the contributions, future capabilities, and advocacy of the KAUST CMR Core Lab in supporting marine research activities in the Red Sea since 2008 and into the future. The CMR team has employed a variety of technologies to collect data and samples from the seabed and water column using various tools and robots. The use of ROVs has enabled the collection of deep-sea corals, exploration of hydrothermal areas, and observation of brine pools. AUVs and USVs, such as the Seaglider, Ocean Aero's Triton, and the Otter from Maritime Robotics, have been utilized for water chemistry sampling and bathymetry at different depths. In addition, autonomous video capture and sensing have been used in coral monitoring labs to capture video and data of aquarium setups. CMR is undergoing a renewal phase to increase our capabilities, such as acquiring a new Research Vessel to reach the full length and depth of the Red Sea and new ROVs for targeted sample collection. We are also upgrading our Life Support System to improve wet lab experimentation and are also developing a Smart reef and underwater technology test bed to provide near-real-time monitoring of sensor grids. Lastly, we are kicking off the Marine Technology Society (MTS) Red Sea chapter. Moreover, the team is exploring future areas, including monitoring and sample collection in fisheries, wet labs for animal behavior, coral reefs, and in situ sample analysis. Overall, the presentation showcases CMR's commitment to advancing marine research and exploration through the use of robotics, cutting-edge technologies, and supporting the development of the next generation of marine technologists in Saudi Arabia.



Andres Espinoza leads the Marine Engineering team in the Coastal and Marine Resources Core Lab, which provides support for ocean research activities in the Red Sea. With 14 years of experience in the oil and gas sector in the United States as a Project Engineer and Project Manager, Andres has extensive knowledge and expertise in Marine instrumentation.

The Marine Engineering team designs and integrates monitoring systems and operates and maintains a wide range of instruments, including ROVs, AUVs, oceanographic sensors, acoustic communications, and a sub-sea simulation facility. These instruments are crucial for effective ocean research activities and ensuring their proper functioning is key to the success of such endeavors.