"PICASSO" Succeeds in its First Sea Trial
The Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology (JAMSTEC; Mr. Yasuhiro Kato, President) has conducted the first test for a newly-developed Plankton Investigatory Collaborating Autonomous Survey System Operon "PICASSO" at Sagami bay and near sea area.
"PICASSO" is a small unmanned submersible developed for the research of ecosystem under the deep sea. It is able to be equipped with high-resolution digital camera, Visual Plankton Recorder: VPR (*1) and high-intensity light, so that the high-resolution pictures of deep-sea life forms such as Plankton are available.
In this test, Marine Snow (*2) and Plankton, which is too small to measure until now, was photographed successfully at hi-resolution in the deep-sea, and high-definition images of deep-sea life forms were filmed successfully at the first time in the world as an UROV type research vehicle(*3).
It is expected to contribute to the elucidation of marine ecosystem, by promoting development and operation of "PICCASO" and getting high-resolution images of deep-sea life forms in various ways.
2. Background of "PICCASO" development
We can see active vertical migrations of zooplankton to feed and depths from 200~1,000m are very important to learn about the ocean carbon cycle.
However, many, such as jelly fish or other gelatinous texture plankton, are too fragile to collect by nets, so that their study is rather behind. Previous ROVs, supported by a large ship, have difficulties operating flexibly to conform to regional, seasonal and daily variations of marine biocoenosis.
For more precise research of deep-sea ecosystem at a depth of 200m~1,000, it is necessary to obtain not only biologic sampling but also high-resolution images. Therefore, a small UROV is expected to do those flexible researches.
3. Features of "PICASSO"
"PICASSO" is the acronym for "Plankton Investigatory Collaborating Autonomous Survey System Operon", a small unmanned research vehicle developed for the study of the deep-sea Plankton and Marine Snow up to a depth of 1,000m. Enable to carry one device from High-resolution digital camera(HDTV), Visual Plankton Recorder(VPR) and High-intensity Light. Its operational cost is much smaller than other research submersible vehicles since it can be carried by a small ship, and it means that more frequent research is possible now.
4. Test Details
5. Future Plan
Keep promoting "PICASSO" in its life form recognition ability and autonomous tracking performance, observe deep-sea Plankton and Marine Snow in various ways that no other facilities are able to do.
Furthermore, since it can be carried by a small ship, it is considered that utilize "PICASSO" to the study demanding mobility, such as in South Pacific Ocean that is important area for global warming and biologic diversity study.
*1 : Visual Plankton Recorder(VPR)
Underwater microscope to capture images of minute life forms at a survey area, and also Digital Still Camera to photograph plankton alive in the water. A camera and a light source attached each tip of the 2 arms. The light source creates dark-field illumination to stand out the outlines of transparent plankton.
*2 : Marine Snow
Settling particles such as plankton's dead body or its excrement, called "Marine Snow" because it looks like snow when settling in the water. It consists mainly of carbon and the amount is huge in the entire ocean, so that it's very important for the study of global carbon cycle.
*3 : UROV type vehicle (UROV=Untethered Remotely Operated Vehicle)
It carries its own battery and communicates with its support ship by a thin fiber-optic of 1mm diameter. A thick cable is unnecessary and the captured images are sent through a fiber-optic. A thin fiber makes it easier to pursue life forms in the deep-sea since it does not get much effect of ocean current.