Science and Technology

Marine Spatial Planning (MSP) Implementation, based on Modelling & Simulation (M&S), driven by the Underwater Domain Awareness (UDA) framework

Marine Spatial Planinng (1)
  • The global community, under the United Nations (UN) Intergovernmental Ocean Commission (IOC), has prioritised the MSP as a critical tool for enhanced water body management.
  • The Modelling and simulation (M&S)–based MSP, followed by field experimental validation, will revolutionize how we manage the challenges and opportunities of the new global order.
  • The developed nations have developed significant expertise and hardware for the MSP initiative and now pushing the global south to align with the new regulations.
  • The developed nations have developed significant expertise and hardware for the MSP initiative and now pushing the global south to align with the new regulations.

The universe is going through a very critical phase in its entire evolution. On one end, the Science & Technology (S&T) and human understanding of the universe has reached a level where sustainability crisis and climate change risk are clearly visible. On the other hand, the population growth and the demands for a better life drive us towards an irreversible degradation of the surroundings. Often, the bogey of development and good life is becoming a cause for extreme weather events and massive scale pollution across air, water, and food. Serious efforts are required to manage this catastrophic situation.

“Given that 75% (including the freshwater systems) of the earth is water, we need to prioritise the focus on these water bodies. Going further, it may be noted that 90% of the threats and resources reside below the surface, so Underwater Domain Awareness (UDA) should be prioritised across the board.”

Digital transformation has been recognised as the de-facto tool for effective governance, and the manifestation in the marine or freshwater systems has been referred to as the Marine Spatial Planning (MSP). The global community under the United Nations (UN) Inter-governmental Ocean Commission (IOC) has prioritised the MSP as the critical tool for enhanced management of water bodies. As per the IOC, MSP is defined as the public process of analysing and allocating the spatial and temporal distribution of human activities in marine areas to achieve ecological, economic and social objectives that have been specified through a political process. However, this initiative at the global scale has two fundamental concerns. The first is the North-South divide, and the second is the tropical challenges. 

The Global South has been at the receiving end of the power play by the developed world, often referred to as the North. Many of these initiatives come as a surprise for the global south, and they pay a heavy price for coping with the changed global order. The MSP is an intense technological and data-driven initiative. The developed nations have developed significant expertise and hardware for the MSP initiative and now pushing the global south to align with the new regulations. The North gets accused of exploiting the global norms as a means of Return on Investment (RoI) for their proactive technology advancements.

“The conventional MSP, being pushed by the developed world, is hardware-intensive and based on extensive sensor deployment across the entire marine space. The prohibitive cost of such hardware intensive MSP is limiting the Global South's participation, which is facing significant socio-economic and socio-political stress.”

The entire global community has recognised the Indo-Pacific strategic space as the theatre for geopolitical and geostrategic interactions. More and more global powers are deploying their strategic assets in the region and indulging in local politics. The Indo-Pacific strategic space, by definition, is the tropical waters of the Indian and Pacific Oceans. The tropical waters present unique challenges and opportunities. On one end, they boast of rich bio-diversity and massive undersea mineral resources, whereas on the other end, they suffer severe degradation of the sonar performance deployed for any UDA. The degradation of sonar performance is of the order of 60%, compared to the temperate and polar regions, where these systems were originally designed and developed. The local site-specific underwater characteristics in the tropical waters require indigenous efforts to ensure effective UDA.

The two fundamental concerns also have a cascading impact. The developed world is facing a serious demographic crisis and lacks the bandwidth to deploy human resources to customise their technologies & know-how to suit the tropical requirements. These tropical countries looking up to the temperate and the polar countries to build their MSP is a flawed idea. The developing nations in the tropical waters are densely populated with aspirational youth looking for meaningful engagement. These young people lack the skill & knowledge to participate in such critical global endeavours. Defining the opportunities and then connecting them to the skill & knowledge gaps will be the key. MSP for the tropical waters of the Indo-Pacific and beyond will require acoustic capacity & capability building in a structured manner.

“The Modelling & Simulation (M&S) based MSP, followed by field experimental validation, will be a game changer to manage the challenges and opportunities of the new global order. The UDA modelling based on the available above-water data will provide us with the backbone to generate synthetic data for any variation in underwater space.”

The tropical waters’ unique characteristics can be mapped using high-end signal processing algorithms. For example, we can use the varied databases to consider the low-frequency ambient noise (below 1 kHz) MSP mapping. The low-frequency ambient noise is known to be generated by shipping traffic. The following points present the entire process:

– The entire space is divided into grids of 10 latitude & longitude. Each grid is treated as a unit of M&S.

– The Automated Identification System (AIS) inputs are drawn for each grid to extract the static and dynamic inputs of the ships in the region. Artificial Intelligence (AI) based algorithms are used to clean the corrupted AIS data.

– This real-time AIS input is then corroborated with the Classification Society database to derive the machinery details of the specific ships in the grid.

– The AIS and the Classification Society data are used to compute the Underwater Radiated Noise (URN) in each grid. The computed URN is then brought to the centre of the grid and referred to as the noise at the source. These high-end URN models are specifically customised for tropical conditions. The AI-based algorithms are used to minimise the computational load and enhance accuracy & precision.

– The real-time underwater medium parameters are drawn from the ETOPO5 database to compute the Underwater Channel model called path. High-end signal processing algorithms backed by AI algorithms are used to build the customised Underwater Channel model for tropical waters that can account for acoustic propagation.

– The signal at the source and the path are combined to extract the signal at the receiver. The entire process is presented schematically in Figure 1 below.

Schematic Diagram Of The M&s Based Msp Implementation
Figure 1: Schematic Diagram of the M&S-based MSP Implementation

– Low-frequency ambient noise in the tropical waters of the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) has been generated, as shown in Figure 2. The figure represents the ambient noise at 500 Hz. The algorithm can generate at all frequencies and in real-time with the required spatiotemporal resolution.

Marine Spatial Planning (msp) For Low Frequency Ambient Noise
Figure 2: Marine Spatial Planning (MSP) for Low-Frequency Ambient Noise

The following aspects merit attention that define the uniqueness of the proposed M&S-based MSP implementation presented above:

– The model’s capability to map the entire globe with the above-water database will bring down the cost to an unimaginable level. The area and domain coverage and the spatiotemporal resolution that can be achieved are unprecedented.

– The local site-specific tropical characteristics have been captured in real-time and with high resolution.

– Pooling resources and synergising efforts across multiple stakeholders will optimise resource deployment and make it economically and politically viable for the global south.

– High-end AI-based data analytics will assure the global south that their classified data will not be compromised and misused.

– The aspirational youth from the global south could find meaningful employment opportunities and channel their energy towards global causes.

– The UDA framework will provide a nuanced regional plan for policy and technology intervention and for building acoustic capacity and capability.

The M&S must be experimentally validated in select locations to close the gaps effectively. The field validation will have to be planned using the three-step formulation:

To See will include the sensors and the platform that will carry them to the required location. Some examples are acoustic and non-acoustic sensors mounted on static (buoys) and dynamic platforms like Autonomous (Surface and sub-surface) Vehicles. This hardware aspect can be outsourced initially; however, efforts should be made to indigenise in the long term. 

To Understand is the core data analytics, including pre-processing, application-specific processing, and post-processing. This can never be outsourced if strategic autonomy and classified data security must be ensured.

To Share pertains to making the processed actionable inputs available to the user in real-time and in a format that is easy to act upon. This will require varied displays and user-friendly formats for users ranging from policymakers to commanders to stakeholders to ground workers. It will also require massive customisation and multiple levels, making indigenous development inescapable.

The human resource mapping will require three categories:

High-end Technology & Data Analysts will handle the hardware and software for M&S and Signal Processing requirements. They will conceptualise the entire technology intervention and design the implementation strategy. These young professionals will design and develop the AI-based algorithms and the high-performance computing infrastructure.

Domain Specialists will form the backbone of the entire effort. Multidisciplinary experts will examine the projects’ sustenance across varied domains. Policy intervention backed by technology support will be the core responsibility. The core responsibility will be the maintenance of the infrastructure, data analysis across varied dimensions, management, and administration, and more.

Field Deployment Specialists will be the front-end team in the waterfronts for deploying sensors and platforms and sample collection across applications. These could be the coastal and riverine community youth, fully conversant with the water bodies and equipped with the traditional knowledge to handle the waterfronts across freshwater and marine systems.

Clear demarcation of human resources will make it easy for skilling and knowledge transfer initiatives to equip young professionals. Mapping the stakeholders, skilling gaps, job definition, grade calibration and curriculum into a seamless pipeline will be critical.

Arnab sir

Dr (Cdr) Arnab Das

About Author

Director and Founder of MRC, Pune. Dr Das is an ex-Naval officer with 2 decades of active service and a PhD holder from IIT Delhi with a specialization in Underwater Acoustics. He has worked on several projects and has many publications to his credit.

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