Radar-model-fusion approach for high-resolution marine resource mapping (RAWMapping)

Lead Research Organisation: National Oceanography Centre (WEF011019)
Department Name: Science and Technology


The forecasting of marine weather, waves and tidal currents using models and in-situ measurements is vital for offshore operations and maintenance (O&M) in the marine infrastructure and marine renewable energy (MRE) sectors. Offshore O&M is limited by strict wave height thresholds at the offshore point of operations (typically 1.5m) and with the UK set to spend £2bn per annum by 2025 on O&M for the offshore wind industry alone the prediction of viable working windows for O&M is critical.
In the tidal stream MRE sector the combined forces of waves and tidal currents on underwater tidal turbines can lead to dangerously high physical and electrical loads placed on equipment and infrastructure. Poor knowledge, and thus prediction of the local variability in weather, wave and tide conditions result in conservative thresholds for MRE operations. This, in turn, reduces the time MRE devices are in operation (and therefore energy generation), increasing investor risk and harming the financial development of the MRE sector as a whole.
Existing wave and current monitoring and forecasting technologies rely on expensive in-situ measurements of the marine environment (e.g., floating wave buoys and devices on the sea bed) and models driven by these measurements or other large-scale simulations. Although very precise, the project partners have identified traditional wave and current monitoring techniques to be inadequate in terms of spatial coverage, timeliness and accuracy in complicated, high-energy coastal environments. These environments have previously proven to be difficult for wave and current observation and validation due to high equipment costs and risks of failure. As such there is a paucity of reliable, large-scale measurements of waves and currents in these high-energy marine environments.
Marine navigational radar ('X-band') is a mature technology for the remote sensing of the marine environment, capable of generating estimates of tidal current speed, ocean wave parmeters and water depths over wide areas. However the current state-of-the-art in X-band radar oceanography has been found lacking in the high-energy, dynamic and complicated coastal environments that marine energy projects are operating. This project aims to develop a step-change in the way we process radar data to generate measurements of the marine environment, paving the way for a system that can produce the environmental information the marine industry requires. NOC has a 20 year history at the forefront of marine radar oceanography and is well-placed to deliver this much needed development.
To achieve this aim an open-source wave model will be integrated with the NOC's tried-and-tested radar analysis toolbox to produce a hybrid model/observation system. This system will combine modelled and observed wave information in such a way that minimises the errors in both; effectively generating a 'most likely' wave measurement over wider area every 10-15 minutes in near-real-time. The system will be developed using radar data and validated using ground-truth data recorded at the European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC) on Orkney; the world's largest and most successful MRE test facility. Once validated, the system will then be demonstrated in a real-world setting at the OpenHydro test platform at EMEC.
This project includes researchers with expertise radar oceanography, marine observation and the numerical modelling of the marine environment. Our project partners include EMEC, the marine energy company OpenHydro and JBA consulting; a company at the cutting-edge of operational forecasting. This new and innovative environmental monitoring system will be developed with the guidance of our partners and the successful system used to supply the basis for high-impact solutions for the partners and their clients.

Planned Impact

The main outcome of the project will be a hybrid observational-modelling system that will improve the remote sensing of waves, currents and bathymetric surveying in high-energy, dynamic coastal areas to the standards of accuracy and reliability required by the MRE and marine infrastructure industries. This system will present a significant improvement over all commercially-available marine radar wave monitoring systems available at present. By developing and demonstrating the new system at a challenging, high-energy tidal site such as the Fall of Warness (FoW) the system will be robust enough to operate anywhere else in the world.

JBA will benefit from improved wave measurements across the FoW site which will feed directly into their ForeCoast hydrodynamic forecasting system. The developed RAdar Wave Mapping system "RAWMapping" will be available to JBA for future development to help improve the accuracy of ForeCoast in complex, high-energy environments. Improved environmental predictions from JBA's ForeCoast will also directly impact their current and future clients in the infrastructure (coastal defence, coastal rail, offshore O&M) and MRE and offshore wind sectors; generating a diverse and valuable range of impact.

OpenHydro will benefit from more accurate and timely measurements and forecasts of wave height incident on their test turbine facility at the FoW site, leading to decreased risk and increased operational time. The project will include a 'live' demonstration of the developed RAWMapping system at the direct request of OpenHydro. The EMEC-maintained radar installation that overlooks the OpenHydro platform will be updated with the developed RAWMapping software and future wave measurements made by the system will be made available. If the project is deemed a success (as per metrics supplied by the partners) the system would be well-placed to be applied to coastal sites of marine operations and end users globally; e.g., the FORCE MRE project in Canada and the MeyGen project in the Pentland Firth (both of which have strong links to NOC).

EMEC have a requirement to provide accurate and timely marine weather data to their customers operating at their tidal and wave power test sites. The software developed as a result of this project will be made available to EMEC to be run at their two radar installations, providing greatly enhanced wave data over the commercial wave radar systems EMEC currently uses. The improved wave data will then be available to EMEC's MRE customers; increasing forecasting accuracy for operational weather windows and in turn reducing operating costs and therefore the price of generated energy from marine renewables

The deliverables from this project will be validated in an operational environment at EMEC, using metrics for the determination of success supplied by the project partners (JBA and OpenHydro). While the system can benefit users in all offshore sectors its development in a high-energy tidal environment will represent its most extreme application; success in this environment will lead to applicability in all other offshore areas.


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Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Award Value
NE/R014779/1 01/01/2018 31/10/2019 £262,102
NE/R014779/2 Transfer NE/R014779/1 01/11/2019 31/12/2019 £43,919