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Oceanographic Instrumentation: Measurement, Process & Analysis

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Ben Kinnaman and his Greensea Systems crew are on a mission to have its software backbone become the standard of subsea robotics and the marine industry, bringing a paradigm change in the relationship between man and machine. From his Richmond, Vermont headquarters, he explains.

By Greg Trauthwein

To kick things off, can you share with our readers that simple problem was really interesting to me. And how you came to found and own Greensea ? when I was working offshore (around the year 2000) is when we started seeing a big step in (vehicle) technol- I grew up on the Outer Banks of North Carolina; ogy.

I grew up on the water. My ? rst job was at 13 working on ? shing boats and sailboats, and then I started diving. What exactly do you mean?

I went to school and earned an undergraduate degree in physics from Davidson College in North Carolina. We started seeing this kind of ‘step’ function in

I earned my undergrad in Physics – Computational technology coming into the ? eld. AUVs were becom-

Physics, and following graduation I went right offshore ing viable (for commercial operations), but it was ‘step as a diver, working as a salvage diver for a number of technology.’ As an operator, with each new capability years, moving to deep ocean salvage. we would get another black box, and we would take this black box and put a new computer in the rack and

How did you work help to shape your career? we would add a new monitor, and then we would inte- grate this new sensor onto this ROV. As a diver I was a contractor, so I worked for a But it really wasn’t integrated, it was just bolted lot of (the salvage companies). And then I worked for on. So at the time it was just more and more black box-

Phoenix International, (working) ROVs and AUVs on es; it was a fascinating problem. So I started working search and salvage, mostly deep ocean. I wrote my ? rst on the concept of the software architecture that would computer program when I was eight, and combined knit all of that together, really focused on the operator’s with my background in physics and computers, I cer- relationship with this technology. tainly had an interest in the technology behind (vehicle operation). I developed a particular interest in what Did you stay offshore while working through the held it all together, and I think, uniquely, from an op- problem?

erator’s perspective, how it was applied in the ? eld to get the job done. So I started working on a concept for No, I left offshore and I moved into engineering. a software architecture for (vehicle) control and navi- I went to graduate school at Johns Hopkins. I went to gation. Hopkins to focus on control theory and robotics. My

Master’s Degree is in Mechanical Engineering through

Considering the complexity of the machines work- Hopkins’ Robotics and Control program.

ing undersea, isn’t this already a standard?

Following your Masters, what was your next move?

Man & Our industry is unique in the robotics world, and really in the machine world, in that we are blissfully Not too long after I left Hopkins, I was interested without standards. If you look through the subsea in- in pursuing this control software architecture. It wasn’t dustry – and largely through the marine industry – stan- a great ? t for the company I was with, as Phoenix is a dards are very hard to come by. There were a few stan- service provider. So we started Greensea to develop dards that have been adopted in shipboard interfaces. technology that addressed the relationship between op-

But when we start moving to subsea, robotics, diving erators offshore and the technology they were using. and submersibles, there really aren’t any standards. So For the ? rst two years – from 2006 to 2008 – Greensea


Photo: Greensea

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