Autonomous Systems for Marine Science and Hydrographic Mapping

Val Schmidt
Research Project Engineer


Friday, Oct. 21, 2016, 3:00pm
Chase 130

The Center for Coastal and Ocean Mapping has begun a concerted effort to investigate methods for the use of autonomous systems in marine science, particularly production hydrographic seafloor mapping of the type routinely conducted by NOAA for nautical charting. In that effort we are working closely with NOAA, and the Center’s corporate partners to evaluate systems in a practical, mission centered way, engineering solutions to system shortcomings, and adding new capabilities that directly address the NOAA mission. Although much of the effort has been focused on vessels, it has quickly become apparent that the effort will necessarily extend beyond them, to sonars, to data streams and final data products. This presentation will be a review of our initial thinking and progress on those efforts.


Val Schmidt received his bachelor’s degree in physics from the University of the South in Sewanee, TN in 1994. During his junior undergraduate year, he joined the Navy and served as an officer in the submarine fleet aboard the USS HAWKBILL from 1994 to 1999. In 1998 and 1999, the USS HAWKBILL participated in two National Science Foundation sponsored “SCICEX” missions to conduct seafloor mapping from the submarine under the Arctic ice sheet. Val served as Sonar and Science Liaison Officer during these missions. Val left the Navy in 1999 to work for Qwest Communications as a telecommunications and Voice Over IP engineer from 2000 to 2002. In 2002, Val began work as a research engineer for the Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University where he provided engineering support both on campus and to several research vessels in the academic research fleet. Val acted as a technical lead aboard the U.S. Coast Guard Icebreaker HEALY over several summer cruises in this role.

Val completed his master’s degree in ocean engineering at the Center for Coastal and Ocean Mapping at the UNH in 2008. His thesis involved the development of an underwater acoustic positioning system for whales who had been tagged with an acoustic recording sensor package. Val continues to work as an engineer with the Center for Coastal and Ocean Mapping where his research focuses on seafloor and water column mapping from autonomous underwater vehicles, sensor development and sonar signal processing.