Photo by Marla Smith via Orca Network

Winning Teams Announced for Competition to Detect Southern Resident Killer Whales and North Atlantic Right Whales from Moving Vessels

About the Winners

First Place: UnCruise Adventures Team
UnCruise Adventures is a small ship cruise line dedicated to sustainable adventures. The cruise line’s winning vessel-mounted design solution combined below-water acoustic sensors, above-water infrared sensors and a data collection system. The team included Dave Boyce, UnCruise Adventures Solutions Engineer, Joe Olson of Cetacean Research Technology and Dean Allen of Small PC.

UnCruise has whimsically named their new infrared camera SQD2. Image provided by Uncruise.

The new platform, including a FLIR M400 premium multi-sensor marine thermal camera, was recently installed on the Safari Quest, a 22-passenger vessel that sails in Coastal Washington and Alaska for UnCruise Adventures. Its first passenger sailing and live whale detection test with cruise passengers aboard began April 28th, 2023. Further sea trials will be conducted in Fall 2023.

2nd Place: Deep Voice, Sea to Shore Systems and Open Ocean Robotics Team
Deep VoiceSea to Shore Systems and Open Ocean Robotics submitted a detailed solution to the challenge comprising four technological layers: shore based long baseline systems, shore based short baseline systems, autonomous surface vehicle mounted systems and drifter buoy mounted hydrophone array.  The solution combined use of hydrophones and above water cameras for automated detection of whales, along with vocalizations detection software.

The novel portion of the solution was the integration of proven technologies from three
organizations that creates a flexible vessel strike warning system capable of achieving a very wide area coverage, 24 hours a day with greatly reduced labor and operational costs.

Diagram of second-place solution provided by Deep Voice Foundation

Deep Voice is a NGO that aims to ensure the welfare of marine mammal populations by utilizing AI tools, making them easily accessible for biologists and conservationists worldwide. The team background is diverse, and ranges from computer scientists and engineers to marine biologists. Currently, the NGO works on five different projects in different countries: Brazil, Costa-Rica, Colombia, Mozambique and Belize. Their current focus is to implement state-of-the-art automated detection and classification algorithms based on acoustic data annotations for the sake of conservation. Recently, they were accepted into the AI for Good Microsoft Accelerator, as one of the 14 chosen companies.

Special Student Commendation: Jay Desai, WhaleSense
The evaluators felt that WhaleSense deserved a special commendation, as the solver is a college student working solo. This proposal compared favorably with many proposals by well-resourced professional teams especially given the resources available to the solver. Evaluators were impressed with Jay’s creativity and ingenuity. Jay tested the IR camera on people (lacking actual whales) and built hydrophones from parts and tested them in a nearby waterfall (lacking ocean access). We believe Jay could have a promising career in marine mammal sensing, and wished to recognize this achievement with a special award.

Quiet Sound

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