Expanding the Telepresence Paradigm to the UNOLS Fleet

Monday, 15 December 2014
Dwight Coleman, University of Rhode Island Narragansett Bay, Narragansett, RI, United States and Gail Scowcroft, University of Rhode Island, Narragansett, RI, United States
The Inner Space Center (ISC) at the University of Rhode Island Graduate School of Oceanography (URI-GSO) has been at the forefront of developing the tools, techniques, and protocols for telepresence-enabled ocean science exploration and education programs. Working primarily with the Ocean Exploration Trust’s E/V Nautilus and the NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer, the ISC facility and staff have supported dozens of research cruises with significant shore-based support, while delivering related educational programming across the globe. Through a partnership with the University National Oceanographic Laboratory System (UNOLS), the ISC is broadening its reach and capabilities to serve vessels in the U.S. academic research fleet, managed by UNOLS. The ISC has developed and used a portable shipboard “mobile telepresence unit” (MTU) on several UNOLS ships to support projects led by ocean scientists that employed the telepresence paradigm as part of their research and outreach programs. Utilizing the ISC facilities provides opportunities for effective, successful broader impact activities and shore-based remote science connectivity. With new UNOLS ships coming online, including the R/V Sikuliaq, the R/V Neil Armstrong, and the R/V Sally Ride, in addition to future Regional Class Research Vessels (RCRVs), telepresence capability has become a technical requirement for a variety of reasons. Older vessels are being retrofit with this forward-looking technology, and URI’s research vessel, the R/V Endeavor, has been recently configured with technology to support telepresence operations. This presentation will provide an overview of the future of telepresence technology, its use in ocean science research and education, and advantages for using this capability to support broader impact activities. In addition, ISC successes, challenges, and lessons learned in employing telepresence technologies and methodologies onboard the academic research fleet will be discussed.