Robust Autonomous Sensors to Revolutionise Marine Monitoring

With the COMMON SENSE project now in its final year, impressive progress is being made towards achieving the project’s aims of developing low cost sensors that will revolutionise current marine monitoring strategies.

Representatives of the 15 COMMON SENSE partner organisations gathered at the state-of-the-art National Centre for Sensor Research (NCSR) ( at Dublin City University (DCU), Ireland, from 6-7 April 2016 to discuss exciting results from recent sensor testing exercises. Pre-final versions of sensors, final integration steps, testing platform availability and deployment schedules were also presented.

Prof Dermot Diamond, Director of the NCSR, was keen to emphasise the remarkable breadth of the project’s vision during the Dublin meeting. He said, “Great strides have already been made towards accomplishing our ambitious objectives during the first 30 months. The final 10 months will focus increasingly on bringing the ambitions of the project together.”

The sensors being developed by COMMON SENSE will increase the supply of critically needed standardised data on: eutrophication; concentrations of heavy metals; microplastic fraction within marine litter; underwater noise; and other parameters such as temperature, pH, pCO2 and pressure. These cost-effective sensors directly respond to current marine monitoring challenges and will be a key tool for EU Member States in meeting their Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD) requirements and achieving Good Environmental Status (GES) of their marine territories.

Sergio Martinez, COMMON SENSE Scientific Coordinator, said: “COMMON SENSE is undoubtedly developing sensors that are beyond the state of the art, but this, in and of itself, is not the greatest achievement of the project. What we are really striving to do here is to make sensors that are low cost, robust, and can withstand tough environments. These sensors transmit data through a communications and web platform, also developed by the project, which will ensure a continuous flow of much needed information on the health of our marine environments. These are practical sensors that will benefit all European citizens by helping member states to reach and maintain GES of our waters through cost effective monitoring programmes.”

The robust nature of the sensors developed by COMMON SENSE will be put to the test during a research cruise scheduled for June 2016, which will entail a non-stop trip from Gdansk, Poland, taking in Baltic and North Sea waters, sailing as far as Tromsø, Norway. During the cruise, the microplastics sensor will be tested under the guidance of The Institute of Oceanology Polish Academy of Science (IOPAN). Meanwhile the eutrophication sensor will also undergo testing in June on Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche (CNR)’s "Dirigibile Italia" Arctic station in Ny-Alesund (Svalbard Archipelago, Norway).

These expeditions will help fulfil the project’s commitment to testing developed hardware in extreme environments, thus ensuring high quality performance in even the most changeable and challenging conditions.
Key to the project’s vision is the ability for sensors to be integrated into a variety of vessels and platforms, so a wide diversity of ships are being employed to test sensor performance. For example, the Barcelona Foundation for Ocean Sailing (FNOB)’s boat, an 18m IMOCA 60 yacht, plays a crucial role in testing the COMMON SENSE microplastics sensor. This highly sensitive technology is capable of measuring the amount of microplastics such as PET (Polyethylene terephthalate) and polystyrene in surface water between depths of 20cm and 100cm. The sensor installed on FNOB’s boat will continuously transmit information via a wireless connection to the project’s servers during testing exercises. The entire data collection process is automatic with no intervention from the skipper necessary at any point.

COMMON SENSE recently shared its exceptional results and new sensing technologies with a diverse audience of stakeholders last month (17-19 May 2016) during a dissemination event at the Baltic Operational Oceanographic System (BOOS) Annual General Meeting in Sopot, Poland. Interactive presentations of the microplastics, underwater noise and eutrophication sensors took place as well as scientific talks and poster sessions; panel discussions; and one-to-one meetings.

For further information about COMMON SENSE, keep an eye on the project Twitter account (@COMMONSENSE_EU).


Photo Caption: Members of the COMMON SENSE consortium at the project’s partner meeting in April 2016 in Dublin, Ireland. Credit: DCU

EC flag The research leading to these results has received funding from the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7 /2007-2013) under grant agreement no 614155. This publication reflects the views only of the author, and the European Union cannot be held responsible for any use which maybe made of the information contained therein.