The European Project UTOFIA (‘Underwater Time Of Flight Image Acquisition’) has enabled researchers to design a new kind of underwater camera. Unlike current technologies that lack precision and are very time-consuming, this new laser camera can record precise 3D imagery, even in turbid waters, down to a depth of 12 metres. Tested in a tuna fish farm in southern Spain, the camera enables the farm’s owners to know exactly what quantity of fish are passing through its cages.
The 3D imagery make it possible to measure the volume and weight of the fish. Very compact, the camera records extremely clear images in 3D of objects in front of it, and its capabilities are of great interest to researchers. Thanks to the laser beam, which flashes many times per second, the camera can work out the distance between itself and objects passing in front of it by calculating the time light needs to travel between them. In this manner, the camera can identify organisms or objects at greater distances than conventional cameras. Its designers hope to bring it to market in less than five years’ time.
The camera could be used in many different ways beyond fish farming, and could monitor underwater pollution or study the biodiversity of the seabed.