Istituto di Scienze Marine     
Gasperini L., Del Bianco F., Stanghellini G. The unmanned surface vehicles to study shallow-water coastal areas. In: L'antica cartografia cinese e l'integrazione con la cartografia occidentale (Bologna, 22-23 ottobre 2012). Atti, pp. 139 - 144. Galvani, Adriana (eds.). Giraldi Editore, 2013.
Due to their natural and economic importance, coastal lagoons and more in general "wetlands" (as defi ned in the Ramsar 1971 convention) require periodical environmental monitoring because they are prone to ecological crises often related to anthropogenic impact. According to their complexity, the study of these ecosystems involves a combination of investigative approaches, such as biology, physical and chemical oceanography, and geology. On the other hand, the main characteristic of these environments is the extremely shallow bathymetry and the variability of bottom types, controlled by geological/biological factors, such as mean grain-size of the sediments, erosional or diagenetic levels, presence of bioconstructional features, etc.. For these reasons, they are diffi cult to study and monitoring. It comes out that techniques that could allow periodical environmental monitoring of these area are required, that could fi t needing of: 1) low cost; 2) low environmental impact; reliability and reproducibility of the measures. All these task could be accomplished using a new tool in marine coastal studies, the Unmanned Surface Vehicle (USV) that could carry out autonomously geological-geophysical-geochemical surveys of underwater ultra- shallow areas. This new technology is under development in several scientifi c institutions, such as the Tecnopolo dell Emilia Romagna, in Italy. In this frame, a new type of USV, the Shallow Water Prospector (SWAP) have been developed (Figure 1). First tests indicate that the study of these areas through this approach has the potential of collecting densely-spaced grids of data at a low cost, allowing for execution of repeated surveys that could give important insights in understanding geo-environmental processes in these rapidly evolving environments.
Subject surface vehicles

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