Polar bear mother and cup in the Arctic ocean

Automatic Marine Mammal Mitigation using Infrared Imaging

Use of loud seismic airguns and naval sonars in marine surveys is feared to risk potentially injuring whales and seals when nearby these activities.  It is therefore commonly requested to shut-down such operations when marine mammals are sighted within a predefined exclusion zone.  Monitoring such exclusion zone is usually done by visual marine mammal observers.  However, night-time, reduced visibility (rough seas, fog, rain, etc.) and observer fatigue or state of distraction all limit the reliability of visual monitoring. To facilitate monitoring 24/7 with unwavering vigilance, our work aims at developing an automatic whale detection system utilizing a commercial, cooled 360° thermal imaging sensor.

 

After more than 10 years of research at or on the sea, we captured thousands of whale cues (mostly blows and bodily displays) on video and analysed the data for dependency on environmental conditions and specificity. We established that IR imaging will work worldwide in any climate zone (and not as initially suspected in polar and subpolar regions only), 24/7 and for months in a row, except for some rare and transient environmental conditions (fog being the major nuisance).

 

Based on this comprehensive  operational at-sea experience, we reframed our Tashtego software and are now in the final stages of finishing the most performant automatic detection system ever, Tashtego PRO, with all the bells and whistles you can imagine.  It allows for instant replay of any detection, localization of detected events, automatic adjustment to the ships superstructure, auto focus, auto contrast, and on and on…

Projects


2013 -

Bundesministerium für Bildung Forschung und Technologie funded project (BMBF FKZ 03F0479I) funded project:  MAPS-IR: Development, Validation und First Use of an IR-Imaging based System for automatic Detection of whales in the environs of ships and platforms. 

2015-2016

Bundesministerium für Bildung Forschung und Technologie funded project (BMBF FKZ 03F0725A):  THETA: Thermography for the benefit of animal and species protection: automatic detections of whales, seals and walruses in warm and cold seas.

2014-2016

Office of Naval Research (ONR Award Number: N000141310856 ) funded project: ETWW: Exploring the thermal limits of IR-based automatic whale detection

 

 

2015-2018

Canadian Environmental Studies Research Fund (ESRF) funded project: Assessing the quality of marine mammal detections using three complementary methods.

2019-2020

AWI funded project: Tashtego PRO

Milestones

 

Project Idea

ANT XX

Proof of concept during Polarstern expedition PS …. using hand-held IR camera (uncooled Bolometer)

ANT XX

Testing detection ranges with passively gimballed directional FLIR cameras A40 (uncooled Bolometer)

 

Acquisition of FIRST Navy cooled and actively gimballed IR sensor

 

beta-version of Whale detection software “Tashtego”

ANT xx

 

First trial of FIRST-Navy

Gohl reis emit Daniel

 

The publication demonstrates the efficiency of thermal imaging based automatic whale detection in waters cooler than 10°C.

 

 

Peer reviewed publications / patents

2013

Peer reviewed publication:  Automatic Round-the-Clock Detection of Whales for Mitigation from Underwater Noise Impacts. 

2015

United States Patent No. US 8,941,728 B2, January 27, 2025: Method for automated real-time acquisition of marine mammals

2020

Peer reviewed publication: Scaling the Laws of Thermal Imaging–Based Whale Detection, J-Tech

2020

Peer reviewed publication: HR. Smith, DP. Zitterbart, TF. Norris, MFlau, EL. Ferguson, CG. Jones, O Boebel, VD. Moulton, A field comparison of marine mammal detections via visual, acoustic, and infrared (IR) imaging methods offshore Atlantic Canada, Marine Pollution Bulletin,Volume 154,2020, 111026, ISSN 0025-326X, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.marpolbul.2020.111026.

(http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0025326X20301442)

Field Work

ANT XX

Proof of concept during Polarstern expedition PS …. using hand-held IR camera (uncooled Bolometer)

ANT XX

Testing detection ranges with passively gimballed directional FLIR cameras A40 (uncooled Bolometer)

 

Acquisition of FIRST Navy cooled and actively gimballed IR sensor

 

beta-version of Whale detection software “Tashtego”

ANT xx

 

First trial of FIRST-Navy

Gohl reis emit Daniel