According to NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) around eighty percent of the ocean is unexplored. On the eastern shore is the Chesapeake Bay, the largest estuary in the United States. Located in the mid-Atlantic region, it adjoins the states of Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, Delaware, Pennsylvania, and New York. It has a circumnavigating surface of over four thousand miles, with an average depth of twenty-one feet. The Chesapeake Bay is named from the Powhatan Indian name “CHESEPIOOC” meaning “Great Shellfish Bay.”
Oysters are a crucial part of the Chesapeake Bay, as they filter the water to remove sediment, nitrates, and silt. This process makes a key habitat to other marine life, as a single oyster can filter over fifty gallons of water per day. When oysters can’t filter water fast enough, then sunshine will not reach the bay floor to grow sea grass. This removes the food supply for many marine species. At one point, there were enough oysters to filter the bay in less than four days, but now it takes around seven hundred days. Consequently, oysters have lost over ninety-nine percent of their population. In 1884, there were fifteen million bushels of oysters harvested, but in 2010, there were only one hundred and eighty-five thousand bushels harvested. This sharp decline and plateau are due to three main reasons, overfishing, pollution, and disease. Overfishing has been cut with more regulations, but pollution is a new bigger problem. All six states connected produce runoff from farmers' fields and pollution. This causes oysters to have to move throughout the bay.
Oyster health is essential for the health of the Chesapeake Bay marine life. There are already plenty of rebuilding programs, but even the programs need to see if they are working. Our platform UUV an autonomous approach to measure oyster levels and health. With a watertight hull, any number of measuring instruments can be implemented with ease. A staple of this platform is the downward-facing camera, that can see and take measurements on the sea floor without disturbing it. With GPS, sonar, and pressure navigation, it can stay within centimeters of a certain position, even fighting common currents in the bay. The maximum depth is ten meters, which is thirty feet. This is seven more feet than the average depth of the Chesapeake Bay, allowing for over fifty percent of the bay to be documented with this platform. An autonomous approach allows for the UUV to navigate a series of waypoints without having to resurface. There has been a complete analysis finished, including the hydrostatic, gravitational, lift, drag, buoyancy, and thruster forces.
This UUV platform could be a crucial measuring device to ensure the health and life of certain oyster beds. And have a global impact by helping the largest estuary in the United Stated flourish again as it once did.