Artificial intelligence to protect the seabed 

Dropping an anchor without knowing where it is going to land is a risk to the marine ecosystem. Fortunately, what our eyes can't see, an artificial eye can.

VisionAnchor is a project - and a product - developed by CEFRIEL, the centre for digital innovation at the Politecnico, with a SeaVision, a Slovenian start-up. It uses artificial intelligence and deep learning to collect data on the seabed using ship anchors: the “electronic eyes” consist of a set of buoys that are able to take photographs of the seabed during anchoring operations and communicate with the algorithm developed by CEFRIEL, which is capable of recognising the most appropriate seabed to anchor by automatically classifying the images according to certain morphological characteristics.

Its immediate commercial application, developed by SeaVision, transforms the Smart Anchoring System into a "smart anchor" capable of analysing the seabed and identifying the best place to anchor, whilst avoiding vulnerable ecosystems such as coral reefs or other points of interest. The data is transmitted to the seamen via an application that can be downloaded onto any mobile phone. The prototype has been developed with the involvement of two students from the Politecnico di Milano and the Università di Milano-Bicocca, as part of the work supported by EIT Digital, a European web community that brings together the best in digital innovation.

This technology also has other interesting potential for development, offering itself as a tool for mapping the ocean floor, of which we still know less than 20%.  

"The analysis and comparison of large amounts of images is one of the opportunities offered by the application of artificial intelligence. In this particular case, the algorithm could have multiple applications related to environmental sustainability, such as the identification and mapping of wrecks or the reporting of any debris on the seabed, perhaps with the aim of improving the health of certain areas of the sea"

explains Alfonso Fuggetta, CEO and scientific director of CEFRIEL. 

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