Western Sydney Uni research team gets grant to develop world first event-based underwater sensing technology

Western Sydney University researchers have been awarded a ‘Global-X’ research grant worth US$45,944 from the United States Office of Naval Research Global to lead an exciting new project utilising world-first event-based underwater sensing technology.

Lead researchers, Dr Moritz Milde, and Associate Professor Gregory Cohen from the University’s International Centre for Neuromorphic Systems (ICNS), have successfully developed event-based sensing technology, using biologically-inspired cameras that function like the eye and brain to overcome limitations of conventional camera exposure times and saturation.

This cutting-edge technology, which will be deployed to the International Space Station in November 2021, and is also used in the University’s own Astrosite mobile space observatory,  will now be utilised for the first time underwater.

“Our event-based sensors do really well in extreme environments, we have demonstrated success with these sensors for space-related applications including Space Situational Awareness to track satellites, space junk, and other objects in orbit,” said Associate Professor Cohen.

“We are now expanding upon the capabilities of our event-based sensors, and further developing our technology for use underwater to solve real-world problems in challenging environments. It is the first time that these sensors have been used underwater, and we are very excited about the possibilities,” he said.

Milde is co-leading the marine application of the University’s event-based sensors. He said biologically-inspired neuromorphic cameras function differently to conventional cameras and sensors.

“Unlike conventional cameras, our sensors mimic biological processing systems like the brain and eye, and are extremely fast and data-efficient, only capturing detected changes to the environment,” said Milde.

“Movement would normally blur conventional camera images, making them unclear, and restricting use to controlled environments. However, with our event-based cameras, waves and movement in the water enhances the imagery and helps the sensors to generate clearer images of changes in the environment.

“Our sensors can be used underwater to detect, track and monitor dynamic phenomena such as air bubbles and bioluminescence generated by submersible vehicles. The technology can also be used for environmental monitoring, distributed early warning systems, high speed object detection, marine pollution detection, and celestial navigation,” he said.

As a key member of the NSW Defence Innovation Network, and a partner with the Australian Defence Force, and the Defence Science & Technology Group, Western Sydney University is working closely with industry to utilise this world leading technology for both defence and commercial purposes.

Professor Deborah Sweeney, Deputy Vice-Chancellor Research, Enterprise & International, said the project is an exciting example of the world-leading, industry-partnered research and development underway at Western Sydney University.

“The University’s neuromorphic systems research capability continues to go from strength to strength, with our researchers discovering new, innovative ways to apply the technology and find solutions to some of our most important, real-world challenges. The University is proud of our International Centre for Neuromorphic Systems and its researchers, and we congratulate them on this latest grant success,” said Professor Sweeney.

The nine-month project, titled ‘Event-Based Sensing in the Underwater Environment’, will be led by Dr Moritz Milde and Associate Professor Greg Cohen from Western’s International Centre for Neuromorphic Systems, with an international team of researchers from the University of Queensland, University of Zurich, ETH Zurich, and The University of Illinois.