The Bubble Box: Towards an Automated Visual Sensor for 3D Analysis and Characterization of Marine Gas Release Sites

Sensors (Basel). 2015 Dec 5;15(12):30716-35. doi: 10.3390/s151229825.


Several acoustic and optical techniques have been used for characterizing natural and anthropogenic gas leaks (carbon dioxide, methane) from the ocean floor. Here, single-camera based methods for bubble stream observation have become an important tool, as they help estimating flux and bubble sizes under certain assumptions. However, they record only a projection of a bubble into the camera and therefore cannot capture the full 3D shape, which is particularly important for larger, non-spherical bubbles. The unknown distance of the bubble to the camera (making it appear larger or smaller than expected) as well as refraction at the camera interface introduce extra uncertainties. In this article, we introduce our wide baseline stereo-camera deep-sea sensor bubble box that overcomes these limitations, as it observes bubbles from two orthogonal directions using calibrated cameras. Besides the setup and the hardware of the system, we discuss appropriate calibration and the different automated processing steps deblurring, detection, tracking, and 3D fitting that are crucial to arrive at a 3D ellipsoidal shape and rise speed of each bubble. The obtained values for single bubbles can be aggregated into statistical bubble size distributions or fluxes for extrapolation based on diffusion and dissolution models and large scale acoustic surveys. We demonstrate and evaluate the wide baseline stereo measurement model using a controlled test setup with ground truth information.

Keywords: 3D reconstruction; bubbles; flux; methane; rise speed; size distribution; stereo; underwater photogrammetry.