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Coral Reef Environment Autonomous Monitoring System


Emmanuel A. Symigdalas


Coral Reef ecosystems are amongst the most sensitive on the planet. Due to their sensitivities and significance, both as biodiversity centers as well as indicators of the condition of the overall environment, they are the object of extensive research and monitoring by the marine biology/scientific community worldwide. However, the quantity and quality of available data is limited.


European Patent Office Applications: Pending

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How do Scientific communities monitor Coral Reef Ecosystems today?

Coral Reef Monitoring has been conducted by physically visiting the reefs with specialized scientific teams which collect data, evaluate them and draw conclusions.  This method is effective  but the question rising taking into account the condition of coral reefs today is the following:


Is today's Coral reef monitoring amount enough?

While there are plenty of scientific teams monitoring the coral reefs around the globe the data collected do not seem to be sufficient. Scientific teams use various methods to monitor the reefs some including scientific diving teams,  ROVs, research vessels and scientific personnel.  Even though these methods seem to be sufficient they are restricted by key limitations which affect the quantity and quality of the data collected  during field visists. Such limitations are time,  human error, anthropogenic interference, trip planning and cost . In order to deal with these limitations new methods need to be established  which  focus on autonomous and  automated  monitoring systems.

Our Proposal [CREAMS]

CREAMS is our proposal for an automated, remotely functioning, robotic, Artificially Intelligent system composing of  remote, independent, integrated probes carrying a multitude of sensors. CREAMS monitors fauna, flora and ambient parameters regularly as programmed. CREAMS can also be triggered by irregular or significant events observed in the monitoring area.

Data collected by each and all sensors and probes are remotely transmitted to a regional or central base of operation in digital form. There, all data collected are further analyzed and evaluated by an AI able operating system capable of processing it where all relevant types and potential correlations, patterns and trends can be indentified.

The level of human/scientific interference can be determined according to the judgment of the scientific team or teams controlling the overall system.

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The Device

The device consists of two parts An automated mobile surface vessel illustrated on the right as (CREAMS Surface Vessel and a submersible drone illustrated as (CREAMS submersible drone) connected to each other via a cable.

The cable connecting the two parts of the device keeps them attached to each other as well as transfers data and communication between them.

The platform is responsible for  energy regeneration , data communication, data transferring to the control centre,  and the  positioning.

The drone is responsible for any data collection below two meters. The drone will be equipped with several sensors as well as one camera on the bottom side giving it the opportunity to capture three sixty images or videos and analyze them.  The Device is governed by a specially developed AI  software  capable of following its pre-programmed routines, but also  formulating additional action if triggered by it’s surroundings.

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The System

The system consists of  two parts, the device and the centre of operation.

The floating platform receives orders from the control centre which is operated

Authorized personnel. Once the orders have been received the device  begins the activation of a series of protocols in order to function reach the designated research area , collect data and initially analyze them before sending  them to the main computer based on the centre of operation.  The operations and protocols  are guided by the Artificial Intelligent software which will be located both on the device and the centre of operation at different levels of authority.

Methodology and Purposes

1.Behavior / Abundance/ Diversity of: Fauna and flora

2.Simultaneously monitoring all relevant ambient parameters:

3.Evaluation/ Correlation/ preliminary recommendations by AI of CREAMS

4.Scientific evaluation of all above and conclusions in regular or irregular formats ( subject to types of events observed)

5.Availability of all above to the Regional/ Global Scientific Community for further evaluation/ study/ analysis.


 CREAMS is a system designed to monitor marine reef ecosystems. The objective for CREAMS is to scan and analyze coral reef ecosystems efficiently, accurately and in a higher rate. The desirable conclusions that CREAMS will be capable of producing are the following :

•Measure the abundance of coral reef fish families in an area.

•Measure the diversity of fish species in an area.

•Measure the hard and soft coral coverage in an area.

•Measure the diversity of hard and soft corals in an area.

•Identify areas where coral bleaching or other negative impact events take or have taken place.

•Correlate data acquired by sensors.

•Create patterns showing minimum to maximum ecosystem change through time.

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CREAMS Surface Vessel

CREAMS Submersible drone

Why does CREAMS need Artificial Intelligence?

•Ability to learn and recognize Coral families

•Ability to learn and recognize fish families and species

•Ability to learn and recognize abnormalities, damage and changes in the ecosystem which  is investigated by the system.

•Ability to analyze  all the collected data compare timelines and come up with conclusions based on cross data analysis and correlations.

•Alert scientists  or operators for any changes that seem to be of significance.

•Recognize and Avoid obstacles

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Benefits of CREAMS Monitoring

•Quality of data

•Increased Quantity of data

•Significant Increase in time of monitoring

•Absence of Human interference

•Absence of Human Error

•Significant Increase of research area/time period

•Artificial intelligent system (automated analysis)

•Artificial intelligent system (automated risk assessment )

•Independent Mobility

•Data Transmission to centre of operation

•GPS location activated at all times

Scientific Value & Monitoring Efficiency

•Low number of automated systems are monitoring coral reefs.

•The scientific value created by using CREAMS can be up to a hundred fold or more in terms of quantity and quality of data collected.

•It is also expected that such an increase in quantity quality of data and observation capability will significantly  increase the level of understanding and knowledge of Coral Reef Ecosystems.

•If an array of devices is deployed and connected to the same centre of operations the efficiency  will drastically increase.

•Monitoring Efficiency (Data quantity /quality )

•System Autonomy & Multitasking

•Wide Area systematic monitoring and surveillance

•Multi directional data analysis and availability to researches.




System Description

1.Device AOV (Surface Vessel and Submersible drone with AI  capabilities)

2.Array of devices  autonomously researching areas of interest

3.Communication Link/ Network and GPS coordintation

4.Operation Center (Housing the main AI software directing all the devices)

5.Overall System autonomously communicating directing and monitoring the entire operation.

System Capabilities

•Continuous Operation + Data Collection+ real time surveillance

•Activation and System alert in case of extraordinary events

•Coordinated data transmission to CREAMS operation centre

•Data analysis, correlation, comparison and conclusion formation

•Data formatting as per research specification


CREAMS Development Plan

•The CREAMS project is beyond its initial conceptual and design phase I and is ready to proceed to its prototyping and development phase II (see relevant project plan).

•As already presented in the system presentation the entire concept is based on functionalities and capabilities of the CREAMS AOV as the basic “Operating module” and its interaction with the AI operating centre as also described in the CREAMS presentation.​

• A Patent is already filled with the European Patent Office.(European Patent Office Application: Pending)

Phase II A

1.Prototype System Components

•AOV Design and  Engineering Finalization

•AOV Prototype Construction

•AI software of the AOV- Development finalization

•Communication Protocol/ System Network

•Centre of Operation Prototype/ Initial System Design


-AI Capabilities

-I/O structure

-Analytical Methodology

-Assembly, System Integration

Phase II B

1.Module Testing


•Outdoors- Marine Environment (SEA)

•Common System Test

•CC-AOV Interaction

•Field Test: Coral Reef

2.System Test.

•Field AOV/CC interaction

•Endurance test all Elements


Imagine a world where oceans are constantly monitored. A “CREAMS” AOV is programmed to monitor a specific area but what if a network of these AOVs is established. Creating a network of “CREAMS” stations could create a more global view of coral reef and marine environment state  and compare patterns of environmental change.

 In addition, by creating a global network of “CREAMS” will give the ability to interested parties such as  Universities, Companies, Organizations etc. to acquire reliable data without the need to send scientific teams to any location.

Further advancements and research purposes  for “CREAM”

“CREAMS” is currently in a very early stage of development. The first stage would be to create a prototype capable of conducting all the surveys mentioned earlier. By proving the concept of one “CREAMS” the project could advance into having several different applications such as:

•Be programmed  to investigate many different types of environments

•House more advanced and accurate sensors

•Establish a global network of “CREAMS”


First Presented at the 14th International Coral Reef Symposium 2021


Special Thanks to Giorgos Galanos for his help and support

The content of this communication, including, by way of indication, information, data, tables, schematics, drawings, trade secrets, technical solutions, trade marks, whether registered or not (collectively "Information and Intellectual Property"), is proprietary to Emmanouil A. Symigdalas and may not be disclosed to any third party without the owner's prior written consent. This communication is not and should not be inferred as a license or grant of any right to the Information & Intellectual Property. Any and all rights in and to the Information & Intellectual Property are hereby reserved to the benefit of Emmanouil A. Symigdalas(European Patent Office Applications: Pending)

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