Adding a new dimension to underwater imaging
Whitecap Scientific Corporation is a St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador-based developer of intelligent visualization systems for the ROV (Remote Operated Vehicle) industry. Established in 2011, Whitecap has created the world’s first live 3D video inspection system, ROV3DTM. This technology allows industry standard cameras to be used to create a three-dimensional model that can be analyzed spatially, in addition to standard two-dimensional video imaging.
“This is the pilot’s window into the remote world,” says Dr. Sam Bromley, Whitecap Co-Founder and Managing Director. “They can see the areas they’ve already recorded, the shape of the model, and they can zoom in on a certain point of interest in more detail.”
The system works by placing two cameras side-by-side, with software then building a three-dimensional image of an undersea site. ROV pilots are also able to place “pins” and annotations in areas of interest that can later be explored and examined, with complete and highly detailed textures of the full 3D image created. Whitecap considers this to be complimentary technology for anyone shooting video underwater, with some distinct advantages: The 3D system provides direct feedback on areas already surveyed, with any gaps in the model clearly visible to the pilot. This feature removes the potential expense of having to return to the site if an area of importance has been missed. he system also helps to remove visual ‘noise’, shooting thirty frames per second. Every frame is processed, all the data adding up constructively to lessen ‘noise’ and provide a truer image. For instance, should a jellyfish move into the frame, it will completely obstruct a standard video image, but with Whitecap’s technology, the obstruction is diminished and removed. The system has a multitude of potential applications, allowing oil and gas operators to create detailed 3D models of their underwater assets. In environmental remediation and surveying, the technology can be flown over a seabed to create a detailed reconstruction.
For example, “You can get a 3D model of, say, a harbor basin, you can do biodiversity studies, you can examine the effect of an operation that goes into a field and then assesses the impact and how quickly it is remediated once it has been decommissioned,” says Bromley.
3D visual modeling has great potential for applications in cold-ocean and Arctic environments, where conditions are more extreme and the importance of regular maintenance, inspection, and a true understanding of the subsea environment is of heightened importance.
“There’s no better technology that brings this accessibility to all of these operators, because they use their existing camera systems, flying video inspection as they always have, but they get all this additional information of full 3D capture,” explains Bromley. “Year after year, they can then bring up one model, superimpose another one, align them perfectly, and see what’s changed. Doing that with video is very difficult.”
Whitecap Scientific Corporation is one of many Newfoundland and Labrador-based startups that have grown from the province’s vibrant ocean technology cluster. For Bromley, there’s no place like home to be developing this kind of groundbreaking technology.
“We have a very healthy, collaborative environment,” he says. “You have a lot of complimentary companies in the region. There’s an attitude that, ‘we’re here to build something that’s greater than any one company’. There’s a lot of support from government agencies to foster innovation. Overall it’s just a perfect place to develop ocean technology.”
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