Reaching for the STARSS

By on June 19, 2015

CARTHE’s mission is to study ocean currents in order to understand how oil and other material get transported. We do this in part by conducting large-scale field experiments. Our next major field campaign is LASER, LAgrangian Submesoscale ExpeRiment, which will utilize aerial monitoring of the ocean’s surface, sampling from ships, and the release of11144494_927767743936167_3256100446703520802_o 1000 biodegradable drifters. Aerial monitoring will combine manned and unmanned aircraft, including a Ship-Tethered Aerostat Remote Sensing System (STARSS). 

STARSS will acquire high-resolution imagery of the surface of the ocean. These images will be used to determine how small-scale mixing driven by waves, winds, and short-lived currents affect how tracers like oil spread and move over time. The drifters released during LASER will show us what happens at scales of 200 m to many km, while STARRS will allow us to see what’s happening at scales of 1 m – 200 m.

The core of STARRS is a helium-filled aerostat capable of lifting up to 25 kg. Aerostats differ from normal helium balloons in their design. Aerostats are designed to create lift so they become more stable as winds increase and they also generate more lift. Wind lift is not considered when designing the imaging system as a sudden drop in winds could cause an overweight system to fall into the sea.

10629260_874459715933637_6019788772316398980_oThe remote sensing part of STARRS will include a high resolution (50 megapixel) digital camera and an infrared (IR) camera. The 50 mp digital camera will acquire images of drift cards and other oil surrogates scattered in the field of view during each experiment. Sea surface temperature (SST) will be recorded using the IR camera. The imagery will be directly geo-referenced using an onboard GPS and inertial navigation system (INS). The GPS will record the position and altitude of the system and the INS will record the orientation (pitch, roll, yaw). The cameras will be mounted on a 3-axis gimbal that will account for any movements of the aerostat. The cameras will be controlled with an onboard computer and images will be transmitted to the ship via wifi.

A composite image of drift card positions estimated using geo-referenced imagery acquired from the aerostat during a very shallow test (< 1m) in seagrass beds in Tampa Bay.

A composite image of drift card positions estimated using geo-referenced imagery acquired from the aerostat during a very shallow test (< 1m) in seagrass beds in Tampa Bay.

10295153_874106919302250_6529420115685744743_oThe CARTHE aerostat is being developed by Dr. Daniel F. Carlson, research faculty at Florida State University, who specializes in remote sensing and ocean observation. Testing of the newly developed equipment will begin this July in Miami, in preparation for LASER, scheduled for January-February 2016. Stay tuned for more updates on CARTHE’s latest plans for what will be one of the largest oceanographic experiments of its kind ever conducted.


Singapore student scientists

By on May 21, 2015

Fourth grade students from the Singapore American School in Singapore were searching the internet one day to look for ways they could help the ocean.  They came across Bob the Drifter and the CARTHE website, and decided they wanted to build a


Santa Barbara Oil Spill

By on May 20, 2015

Photo by the Santa Barbara County Fire Department Another oil spill hit the headlines: Santa Barbara Oil Spill: Crews Race to Contain Estimated 21,000 Gallons CARTHE director, Tamay Özgökmen, took a moment to consider the impacts of this event


5 years later…

By on April 20, 2015

Today marks the 5th anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion.  11 individuals were killed, 17 were injured, and over the next 3 months, approximately 5 million barrels of oil spilled into the Gulf of Mexico. Scientists from across the world


Drifter behavior experiments with Seakeepers and Fleet Miami

By on April 16, 2015

CARTHE teamed up with The International SeaKeepers Society and Fleet Miami in September 2014 and March/April 2015 for a total of 6 days of experiments contributing to CARTHE’s new drifter design.  The goal of this research is to test the


‘Drones at the Beach’ wins video competition!

By on March 16, 2015

Ocean 180 Video Challenge is a national video competition for ocean scientists, judged by middle school students.  Scientists are challenged to bring their latest research papers to life in a short video. We are happy to announce that 2 CARTHE/Waterlust videos were in


Grad Student Smith Keeps Surface Currents and Disaster Response on His Radar – GoMRI featured article

By on February 26, 2015

CARTHE graduate student Conor Smith is featured in an article by the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative: After the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, many Gulf residents wanted to know where the oil was going and how fast it would get


Finally understanding sub-mesoscale currents

By on December 3, 2014

Ocean currents are streams of seawater that flow in the ocean, and are caused by wind, gravity, earth’s rotation, and differences in density. Currents can carry animals, nutrients, and even pollutants with them as they move. Therefore, it is important


Oil spill simulator makes a splash at Delaware Coast Day

By on October 17, 2014

    The 38th annual University of Delaware “Coast Day” was held on October 5, 2014 in Lewes, Delaware – the home of the UD marine school.  UD faculty shared their research, gave tours of their research vessels, and offered


Using drones in oil spill research

By on October 9, 2014

The use of drones during the Surfzone Coastal Oil Pathways Experiment (SCOPE) helped scientists from CARTHE study how oil moves from offshore onto our beaches! This is an innovate approach to a complex problem with powerful results. Check out this