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Pretty coral

What we offer

PlanBlue offers a new seafloor monitoring technology that is changing the way we map, assess and even understand our seafloor: the “DiveRay”. The DiveRay is an intelligent underwater camera, that automatically scans seafloor areas, as well as lake bottoms and river beds. It makes use of hyperspectral imaging, and its software is based on machine-learning algorithms. The DiveRay significantly reduces the time spent both below and above water (i.e., monitoring underwater and data analysis/interpretation on land). Any experienced diver can use the DiveRay, it is not limited to experts-only. The rich data obtained by the DiveRay is objective (i.e., independent of the person analyzing the seafloor data) and can easily be compared to future studies.

diveray

The technology

What can you do with our DiveRay technology

The DiveRay have many applications, including:

  • Long-time monitoring of seafloors, lake bottoms and river beds
  • Conduct environmental impact analyses (e.g., support environmental consultancies)
  • Inspect underwater constructions/repairs
  • Scientific research (e.g., detect notorious algae, bleaching of corals, presence of coral-killing starfishes)
  • Help explore the unknown 95% of our oceans
The obtained data is usually presented in the form of interactive color-coded maps. Depending on the user’s question(s), features on the maps can be highlighted (e.g., where are invasive algae, where can I best build underwater, what is the impact of a nearby construction site?). Many other types of visualizations and statistical summaries are possible.

How do we train the DiveRay technology

The DiveRay camera can be trained to recognize anything present on the seafloor, bottom of a lake, river bed etc. Training of the DiveRay is done via its intelligent software, and experts can weigh-in to train the DiveRay. To make sure the DiveRay is trained correctly, the training data is checked by a panel of experts from all around the world. Next to that, it is also possible to train the software by yourself without further input and create your own library.

Future

Currently, the DiveRay technology is operated by a diver, but in the future will be mountable on Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROVs) and Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUVs).

History

PlanBlue is a spin-off company from the Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology (MPI-MM) in Bremen (Germany). At this institute, the ‘HyperDiver technology’ was developed by Dr. Arjun Chennu and colleagues, who utilized the technology to re-discover the seafloor by collecting new types of data, which allowed them to better answer scientific questions. With the support from an EXIST Start-up program, the Climate-KIC program and the MPI-MM, our team redeveloped the HyperDiver technology into a new and user-friendly product, the DiveRay (both hardware and software). We founded our company originally as ‘HyperSurvey’ in October 2017, but our company is now renamed to ‘PlanBlue’.

Pretty coral

Our motivation

Oceans cover over 70% of the earth’s surface, yet 95% of its seafloors are unknown. Unlike studies of the earth’s atmosphere and land surfaces using e.g. satellite imaging, changes to our seafloors remain largely undocumented, and even if some data is available, this is often of very low quality. This is surprising to us, as monitoring changes to seafloors is essential. Seafloors are directly linked to all life on earth, and are more important to us humans than we might think (e.g., coastal protection, source of food, pollution, industrial prosperity, transportation). We believe that threats posed to nature and society by e.g. climate change need to be tackled and understood using real-time, objective and automated tools. We want to be able to provide this technology to anyone interested, but this technology is not to be used to exploit and/or damage our oceans.

Pretty sight with HyperDiver

Advantages of the technology

  • Quick data acquisition: a 40m2 seafloor area can be monitored in 60 seconds using a DiveRay. This is several orders of magnitudes faster than many traditional monitoring technologies, which can take up to 60 minutes to survey the same seafloor area.
  • Full coverage of the seafloor: our technology surveys the entire seafloor (i.e., each pixel recorded is information). Traditional technologies often study only sections of pictures or video material obtained, which is then extrapolated as if the entire seafloor is studied.
  • Quick data analysis and reporting: fully automated analyses of the obtained seafloor data. There is no need for labor-intensive data entry and interpretation. A report of the results can be automatically generated.
  • Availability of (large) seafloor maps: the DiveRay software is capable of producing detailed seafloor maps, which allows better assessment of things such as reef health.
  • Objective assessment: most traditional monitoring technologies rely on manual assessment of the seafloor data, relying on the capabilities of the expert performing and analyzing the survey. With our software, a purely objective assessment of the seafloor can be done, enabling an optimal fusion and comparability of datasets.
  • Versatility: our solution is not just usable for tropical coral reefs, it can also be applied to other aquatic ecosystems like fresh water lakes, the Mediterranean Sea or any other types of seafloors.
  • Easy operation: the DiveRay can be used by any diver. Future versions will allow attachment to boats and ROVs.
  • Cost-efficiency: since seafloor data acquisition and analysis is much faster, and can be done by anyone that can dive, the DiveRay is a highly cost-efficient monitoring technology.
More pretty coral

Press

In Monaco’s marine-protected Larvatto Bay, six 3D printed reefs were installed in an effort to restore the area’s biodiversity in November 2017. The DiveRay technology was used to support seafloor restoration efforts, which is explained in this interview.

Further coverage

Max Planck (MPI-MM) related coverage

The DiveRay technology is based on the HyperDiver technology from the Max Planck Institute. In the following videos, the latter is explained:

For more information about the HyperDiver technology from the MPI-MM, please see the article published in Scientific Reports.

Collaborations

Guam work

University of Guam (USA)

In May 2017, Dr. Joost den Haan visited the island of Guam, where he scanned 13 coral reef sites to explore the application of the technology. At this time, he used the technology from the MPI-MM. While doing this, Dr. Tom Schils from the University of Guam took pictures of the same transect lines, to be compared to the result of traditional monitoring the MPI-MM technology. This project was part of the mission "Underwater Hyperspectral Imaging to Advance Automated Diagnostic Monitoring of Tropical Reefs", which is part of the NASA Guam EPSCoR Research Infrastructure Development Program

Curacao

DiveRay prototype launched on Curaçao

In June 2018, the PlanBlue team successfully tested and deployed its new camera, the DiveRay prototype, on the island of Curaçao (southern Caribbean). The fieldwork was conducted at the research station ‘Carmabi’ and the dive facilities of ‘the Diveshop’. Not only did we test the camera, we also tested and deployed our new underwater positioning system.

Curacao

University of Nice

In July 2018, we completed our first customer project with the University of Nice Sophia Antipolis and the Association Monégasque pour la Protection de la Nature (AMPN). Here we used the DiveRay technology to monitoring seafloor restoration efforts. Feedback obtained from this fieldwork is used to complete the new DiveRay camera, which is set to be launched in 2019.

About us

Our team members have various backgrounds, skillsets and come from different countries. As our team expands, our aim is to remain diverse.

Profile picture Joost den Haan

Dr. Joost den Haan
Co-founder & CEO

Hi, I am the CEO of PlanBlue. Since 2007 I have been monitoring coral reefs all over the world. I used the experience obtained as a marine biologist (MSc, PhD and postdoctoral research), to help create a unique machine-learning training dataset, used to make the MPI-MM technology capable of coral reef monitoring. In 2017, we founded the company PlanBlue to create a new fully-fledged end-user product, the DiveRay. If you have any questions about the DiveRay or the research I have done in the past, feel free to contact me.

Profile picture Raja Kandukuri

Raja Kandukuri, M.Sc.
Co-founder & Head of hardware

Hi, I am the head of hardware development for PlanBlue. My primary role is to design and develop the electronic systems of the DiveRay technology. I look forward to building the autonomous version of the DiveRay system to overcome the diver-limitation underwater.

In 2014, I obtained my MSc from the University of Bremen in Electronics and Communication Systems Engineering. I have more than 6 years of experience in embedded systems development, for industrial and domestic applications. As I am familiar with image processing and machine learning which I used to tackle logistical cargo problems during my M.Sc.

Profile Picture Guy Rigot

Guy Rigot, M.Sc.
Co-founder & Head of software

Hi there! I am the head of software development for PlanBlue. My job is to optimize and further develop the DiveRay software. My aim is to design a robust, user-friendly interface with various options to answer specific customers pain points and enable easy access to the data obtained by the DiveRay.

Before I joined PlanBlue, I worked in the space industry as an Attitude and Orbit Control System Engineer for six years, where I contributed to the next generation of European meteorological satellites (MeteoSat Third Generation). In 2008, I graduated Cum Laude for my M.Sc. in Aerospace Engineering from Delft University of Technology. If you have any questions regarding software development for the DiveRay, feel free to contact me.

Profile Picture Hannah Brocke

Dr. Hannah Brocke
Business Development Director

Hi! I am the business development director and dive officer of PlanBlue. My main job is to mobilize financial resources to further our company, and find potential partners and clients.

In 2010, I used hyperspectral imaging for my PhD research at the Max Planck Institute. At that time, the technology was not yet usable underwater, and I therefore worked with a laboratory setup. During most of my scientific career (MSc, PhD and postdoctoral research), I worked on the effects of human impact on coral reefs. In 2016, I participated in a coral reef monitoring program on Curaçao (Southern Caribbean) involving the MPI-MM technology.
Furthermore, I have strong skills in fundraising, and since 2010 I am a scientific dive officer (AESD - Advanced European Scientific Diver, TEL - Taucheinsatzleiter), and have over 10 years of experience in scientific diving.

Thank you for your support

PlanBlue would not exist without the support of the following organizations:

  • Max Planck Institute in Bremen, Germany – thank you for providing us with your insights into the HyperDiver technology and hosting us from July 2017-June 2018.
  • EXIST Start-up program and BRIDGE – many thanks for your financial support and giving us a chance to commercialize the DiveRay technology
  • Climate-KIC program – thank you very much for all the excellent coaching, mentoring, workshops and financial support.
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