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Cable Planning for the European Multidisciplinary Seafloor Observatory
Open-Source GIS Software Used to Determine Optimal Cable Deployment of an Underwater Observatory Network

By Ismael F. Aymerich
Doctoral Candidate
Jaume Piera
Research Scientist
Dr. Juanjo Dañobeitia
Professor in Marine Geophysics
Unidad de Tecnología Marina
Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Cient'ficas
Barcelona, Spain
Understanding the ocean and its complex physical, biological, chemical and geological processes is a challenge. To meet this challenge, countries and institutions around the world are investing in a global network of seafloor observatories, among them Canada's NEPTUNE and VENUS observatories, the U.S. Ocean Observatories Initiative, Japan's Dense Oceanfloor Network System for Earthquakes and Tsunamis, and Taiwan's Marine Cable Hosted Observatory project. One project currently in its preparatory phase is the European Multidisciplinary Seafloor Observatory (EMSO), a large-scale European research infrastructure project. An aspect of this planned project is the design, installation and maintenance of its submarine cable system.

Cable installation and maintenance is now the most expensive part of a submarine cable system. To reduce the costs of installing and maintaining these cable networks, planners can use geographic information system (GIS) tools. This paper will discuss the use of free, open-source GIS tools, specifically Geographic Resources Analysis Support System (GRASS) software, to evaluate the costs of installation and maintenance of the cable system that will eventually be used for the EMSO. Using these GIS systems, designers can make better decisions, such as the optimal cable path, which will reduce the necessary length of cable and minimize unwanted risks, such as cable suspension on the ocean bottom that could cause cable breakage.

Advantages of GIS Planning
The cable route of an underwater network installation is an important operation that should be carefully planned. The traditional method to design these routes has been interpreting data and maps available and then choosing the deployment path. In order to find the optimal route, planners faced the difficult task of incorporating large amounts of information, such as soil types, slopes, marine life, restricted areas and maintenance facilities.

GIS-based approaches have been shown to be very effective because they can rapidly evaluate the best solutions in terms of the costs and benefits for whatever intervention is necessary on site. To continue this article please click here.

Ismael F. Aymerich is a telecommunication engineer and Ph.D. student performing research in the Unidad de Tecnología Marina at the Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas. His research interests include signal processing of bio-optical data and hyperspetral sensors, pattern recognition techniques and geographic information systems.

Jaume Piera is a scientist in the Unidad de Tecnolog'a Marina at the Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas. Piera has more than 10 years of experience in multidisciplinary research programs dealing with signal processing applied to different scientific areas, and he has recently focused on optical sensors of high spatial and spectral resolution.

Dr. Juanjo Dañobeitia is the director in the Unidad de Tecnología Marina at the Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas. He is responsible for logistical and technological support for research vessels and polar stations that provide national-level marine and polar research. Dañobeitia is also leading research and development projects on deep seafloor observatories and marine sensors.

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