Coast Guard anticipates high-tech future with Arctic center

  • By ASAF SHALEV
  • Saturday, November 7, 2015 10:16pm
  • News

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — The Department of Homeland Security has launched a new research and development center in Alaska, looking to a future in which sophisticated algorithms will help the Coast Guard manage its Arctic responsibilities and respond to emergencies there.

More than 100 federal and state dignitaries, including Homeland Security’s Deputy Undersecretary for Science and Technology Robert Griffin and Rear Adm. Daniel Abel, commander of Coast Guard forces in the Arctic, gathered for a ribbon cutting ceremony at the University of Alaska Anchorage.

The event marked the formal opening of the Arctic Domain Awareness Center. The center has actually been operating since August 2014 with a $17 million federal grant. The past year has seen the creation of a network of academics, industry groups, community stakeholders and government agencies working on technology and Arctic issues. At the university ceremony, some of the early accomplishments of this network were showcased.

“ADAC has already begun developing systems and partnering with rural communities to improve maritime situational awareness and crisis response in the Arctic environment,” said the center’s executive director, Helena Wisniewski.

Wisniewski, UAA’s vice provost for research and graduate studies, corralled the visiting officials into a small room at the campus’s ConocoPhillips Integrated Science Building for a presentation.

With the help of data scientist Rob Bochenek, Wisniewski introduced the audience to the ADAC-developed program known as an Integrated Intelligent System of Systems.

On two widescreen television screens, Bochenek toggled between maps, graphs and other media for a snapshot of conditions in the Bering Strait and along Alaska’s Arctic coast.

The system, Bochenek said, pulls data from an array of sources centralizing the information into a single interface. Weather, maritime traffic, satellite imagery and sea ice data are a few of the inputs that can be represented on screen at any given moment.

Information that comes in less quantifiable formats, such as traditional knowledge, observer reports on walruses and video feeds from unmanned aircraft, can also be incorporated.

“We have this huge knowledge base . and we need to build these mosaics of data on the fly,” said Bochenek, who works at Axiom Data Science, a private firm based in Anchorage.

In the second half of the demonstration, Wisniewski and Bochenek programmed a simulated oil spill. With the help of the software, emergency responders would have immediate access to sea currents, ice conditions and other factors critical during a spill, Wisniewski said.

Rear. Adm. Abel endorsed data-driven tools as necessary for the Coast Guard in the coming years of increased Arctic melting and longer seasons of activity. “How do we open the Arctic and not use 1800s technologies — buoys and lighthouses?” he asked.

“How do we fuse your walrus information with what my GPS says on the bridge of a ship? . That’s where we really get to where we have a robust real-time system to make sure we de-conflict all the emerging activities in the Arctic.”

In addition to the local Coast Guard leadership, the audience included top research directors and Arctic planners, who flew in from the East Coast.

Bert Macesker, the executive director of the Coast Guard Research and Development Center, said the Coast Guard is considering “piping in” the data system to the command center in Juneau, but he said that would take some additional work.

“We need that layer that interprets (the data) so that we can act on it,” he said. “You can’t just insert new technology into an organization like the Coast Guard. There’s always a long tail into something new.”

More in News

Alaska State Troopers logo.
Fatal collision near Anchor Point closes highway for hours

Troopers received a call about the collision shortly after noon

Members of the Soldotna Elks Lodge #2706, including Exalted Ruler Robert Dixon and Secretary Shannon Woodford (third and fifth from the left) stand with purchased toys and clothes for donation to local children at the lodge in Soldotna, Alaska, on Friday, Dec. 2, 2022. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Soldotna Elks to donate toys and clothes to local kids

Yearlong fundraiser brings in more than $13,000

Portions of the Kenai bluff can be seen eroding below Old Town Kenai in this undated photo. (Photo by Aidan Curtin/courtesy Scott Curtin)
Portions of the Kenai bluff can be seen eroding below Old Town Kenai in this undated photo. (Photo by Aidan Curtin/courtesy Scott Curtin)
Infrastructure dollars flood peninsula

Federal infrastructure bill makes available more than $232M for peninsula projects

Soldotna City Hall is seen on Wednesday, June 23, 2021 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Soldotna bumps vote on use of accessory housing as short-term rentals

An accessory dwelling unit is a subordinate, detached dwelling unit located on a lot or parcel with an existing residence

Foliage surrounds the Soldotna Police Department sign on Tuesday, Aug. 30, 2022 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Foliage surrounds the Soldotna Police Department sign on Tuesday, Aug. 30, 2022, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Law enforcement to host women’s self-defense class in January

Within 48 hours of the course being advertised, 120 women had signed up to participate

Alaska State Troopers logo.
Local hunter credits community members for Thanksgiving rescue

Glover said he didn’t even strike out from his home to go hunting

In this July 13, 2007, photo, workers with the Pebble Mine project test drill in the Bristol Bay region of Alaska, near the village of Iliamma. (AP Photo / Al Grillo)
EPA proposes restrictions to block Pebble Mine

Mine developer Pebble Limited Partnershi called the EPA’s decision a preemptive veto

Architect Nancy Casey speaks in front of a small gathering at this year’s final Fireside Chat presented by the Kenai Watershed Forum on Nov. 30, 2022, at Kenai River Brewing in Soldotna, Alaska. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Building with the environment in mind

Kenai Watershed Forum’s Fireside Chats conclude

Johni Blankenship signs her name after being sworn in as Soldotna City Clerk at a city council meeting on Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2022, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Blankenship sworn in as Soldotna city clerk

Blankenship comes to the City of Soldotna from the Kenai Peninsula Borough

Most Read