NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer's high-tech control room allows onboard scientists to watch live video from remotely operated vehicles, review mapping and other collected data, and interact with scientists on shore. Image courtesy of NOAA Okeanos Explorer Program, INDEX-SATAL 2010.
The NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer was commissioned on August 13, 2008, as “America’s Ship for Ocean Exploration.” It is currently the only U.S. ship whose sole assignment is to systematically explore Earth’s largely unknown ocean.
Telepresence involves the use of technology to allow a person to feel, interact, and collaborate as if she were present at one location when in fact she is at a different location. When applied to ocean exploration, this ability to engage and share data and information with participants around the world, not just those on a research vessel, offers endless possibilities for learning and collaboration.
The new educational and collaborative opportunities made available via telepresence are a major part of NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer’s mission for advancement of knowledge and are key components of the ship's exploration strategy. Okeanos Explorer's telepresence capability is based on advanced broadband satellite communication through which live images can be transmitted from the seafloor to scientists ashore, to classrooms, to newsrooms, and to living rooms, meaning anyone, anywhere with an Internet connection can follow an expedition live.
Telepresence also makes it possible for shipboard equipment to be controlled by scientists at shore-based Exploration Command Centers. In this way, scientific expertise can be brought to the exploration team as soon as discoveries are made, but at a fraction of the cost of traditional oceanographic expeditions.
All communications with the shore are made possible by Okeanos Explorer’s powerful satellite dome, which houses the ship’s Very Small Aperture Terminal (VSAT) dish antenna. This antenna enables Okeanos Explorer to establish high-bandwidth connectivity with remote parts of the world, to transmit high-definition video feeds and establish real-time voice communication with shore-based consoles. The antenna also provides basic Internet connectivity for the ship’s personnel.