New video technology will set standard for underwater inspections

26 May 2010

SCOTTISH diving and marine contractors, Shearwater Marine Services Ltd, have entered into a ‘knowledge transfer partnership’ with Glasgow Caledonian University to revolutionise the way they capture, view and store video footage and technical data associated with underwater investigations.

The company, which is based in Dunoon, employs its expertise in a variety of areas including laying and maintaining sub-sea cables in the renewable energy industry; ship inspection and maintenance in the MoD and commercial shipping industries; civil construction; infrastructure inspection and maintenance and aquaculture services in Scotland, the UK and beyond.

This new form of video and technical data transfer will allow office-based decision makers to view the dive and communicate with the dive site in real time, improve reporting quality and provide enhanced data storage and retrieval - all with the added benefit of improving diver safety.

Shearwater was introduced to GCU by Highlands and Islands Enterprise, when the company recognised an opportunity to improve the way it records, reports, stores and retrieves underwater footage and associated technical information to increase the efficiency of its operations and improve customer service.               

The result is a partnership funded by the government agency Knowledge Transfer Partnerships and Shearwater itself to the tune of £128,000, which will see recruitment of a project engineer based in Dunoon to liaise between Shearwater and GCU as they develop new systems that can instantly upload images and technical information to a central database.

Tommy Henaughen, General Manager at Shearwater Marine, said: “This is an exciting development for Shearwater that will set a new industry benchmark in underwater inspection and reporting and will deliver real benefits directly to customers.

“From a company development perspective it will not only significantly improve the service to existing customers, but also present a platform to attract new customers and facilitate the progression into new markets both nationally and internationally.”                                                 

The Glasgow Caledonian University team comprises Professor Brian Stewart, Alan Nesbitt and Dr. Ali Ahmadinia from the Department of Communication, Network and Electronic Engineering.

Professor Stewart added:  “Using current technology, we will develop innovative recording and database systems for Shearwater that allows instantaneous streaming and upload of images as well as other key technical information to a central electronic database, so that dives can be viewed and assessed immediately.

"A further exciting possibility is that clients – no matter what their location – could watch underwater investigations live allowing them to make instant and better informed decisions about the care and maintenance of sub-sea assets.”

Shearwater has been involved with many major and successful projects and is recognised for delivering practical engineering solutions to the benefit of their customers.  

Examples of the company’s underwater operations include the installation of sub-sea cables for the European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC) near Billia Croo in Orkney; those associated with construction of the new Kincardine Bridge over the Firth of Forth and the successful environmentally friendly approach to the cleaning of potable water tanks without the need to empty the tanks.