Industry seminar: Advancing hydrographic surveying with research and innovation in robotics

18 January 2023, 4:30 pm–7:00 pm


Join our academics and invited industry speakers to discuss the opportunities and challenges of applying robotics and automation technologies for hydrographic surveying and hear how they drive their efforts to address them. A drink reception will follow the talks.

This event is free.

Event Information

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UCL Robotics Institute


UCL IOE Building
20 Bedford Way

Full resolution point cloud of combined multibeam and lidar survey acquired with an Uncrewed Surface Vehicle.


About the Seminar

A seminar aims at promoting discussions and advancing research in robotics and autonomous systems in hydrographic surveying and its applications. Presenters from the industry will provide their view of the sector and the challenges encountered. UCL academics will present their relevant research in the field, one of which will utilise an EPSRC-funded uncrewed survey vessel acquired through a collaborative interdisciplinary bid with industry support from the Port of London Authority. The seminar is set to identify some key challenges and explore collaborations.


4:30 - 4:40pm

Registration and Welcome

4:40 - 4:45pm

Dr Timothy Wilkes - Nash Maritime

4:45 - 4:55pm

UCL CEGE Hydrographic Survey USV Research Agenda
Dr Cassandra Nanlal - UCL Civil, Environmental and Geomatic Engineering

4:55 - 5:10pm

John Dillon-Leetch - Port of London Authority

5:10 - 5:20pm

Future marine autonomy: technology in sensing/perception and motion planning
Dr Yuanchang Liu - UCL Mechanical Engineering

5:20 - 5:30pm

BIM, Digital Twins & AI - from data to dashboards
Dr Jan Boehm - UCL Civil, Environmental and Geomatic Engineering

5:30 - 5:45pm

James Williams - CEO Unmanned Survey Solutions
5:45 - 5:55pmThe value of hydrographic surveying in the assessment of coastal and seabed morphodynamics
Prof Helene Burningham - UCL Geography
5:55 - 6:25pm

Roundtable Discussion

6:25 - 7:00pm

Drink Reception

About the Speakers

Dr Timothy Wilkes

Innovation Lead at NASH Maritime

A maritime technologist with a background in autonomous shipping and big marine and maritime data analytics. Enabling autonomous shipping in port and coastal waters. Driving safety and sustainability in maritime. Using risk management to do awesome things.

More about Dr Timothy Wilkes

Dr Cassandra Nanlal

at University College London

Cassandra is a Lecturer in Marine Geospatial Science in the department of Civil, Environmental and Geomatic Engineering at UCL. She completed her PhD at the University of the West Indies, St. Augustine in Trinidad and Tobago in 2019. Cassandra's research focussed on establishing vertical separation models for land and marine use within Caribbean Territories. She has she engaged in research involving tidal influences on coastal wetlands, coastline change detection, monitoring coastal erosion, sea level change and advocating for coastal and marine conservation. Cassandra's research interests lie in the field of Hydrographic Surveying with focus on integration of vertical datums across the land sea interface, cost effective shallow water bathymetry and autonomy in Hydrographic Surveying and data processing.

More about Dr Cassandra Nanlal

John Dillon-Leetch

Port Hydrographer at Port of London Authority

I have thirty years of experience in the marine industry from operational and project management roles to the development of a profitable and sustainable commercial business at the Port of London. With a focus on the safety of navigation, conservancy, and income generation.

More about John Dillon-Leetch

Dr Yuanchang Liu

at University College London

Dr Yuanchang Liu is a Lecturer in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, University College London. Before joining the department, he was a Research Fellow in Robotic Vision and Autonomous Vehicles at Surrey Space Centre, University of Surrey, funded by UK Space Agency. Dr Yuanchang Liu received MSc degree in Power Systems Engineering, and a PhD degree in Marine Control Engineering, both from University College London in 2011 and 2016, respectively. Dr Liu’s research focuses on automation and autonomy, with a special interest in the exploration of technologies for sensing and perception, and guidance and control of intelligent and autonomous vehicles.

More about Dr Yuanchang Liu

Dr Jan Boehm

at University College London

Jan Boehm’s research focuses on 3D data acquisition and 3D data processing, including scene understanding. He is an expert in photogrammetry and LIDAR and related 3D capture technologies. His research combines geometric processing techniques and machine learning approaches to deliver automated acquisition and high-level analysis of 3D data. He has applied his expertise and collaborated in a variety of application areas including national mapping and infrastructure, automotive and aerospace manufacturing, medical and body imaging, robotics and autonomous navigation, architectural and cultural heritage recording. 

More about Dr Jan Boehm

James Williams

Co-founder and CEO at Unmanned Survey Solutions

Unmanned Survey Solutions (USS) design, build and operate Unmanned Surface Vessels (USV’s) to conduct seabed mapping for the offshore renewables industry.

James Williams, Co-founder and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) has an MSc (with distinction) in Hydrography and over 25 years of industry experience. James is passionate about innovation, his team at USS and the environment. He wants to grow USS into a substantial operating company to meet the demand for offshore wind by offering low/zero carbon solutions.

James is also the chairman of the Autonomy Sub-group of the Future Autonomous at Sea Technologies (FAST) Cluster based in Plymouth. The group, which is made up of commercial companies, academia and government entities, have been liaising with the MCA on matter of primary and secondary legislation related to the safe operation of Unmanned Surface Vessels (USV’s).

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Prof Helene Burningham

at University College London

The central focus of my research is to explain coastal behaviour, system dynamics and mechanisms of forcing over decadal to century timescales. In particular, my research explores the relative importance of intrinsic system control versus external climate forcing on the geomorphology and morphodynamics of coastal sedimentary systems. 

More about Prof Helene Burningham