High-tech underwater survey discovers what lies beneath surface of Burrator Reservoir

Professor Bob Stone and the Department of Electronic, Electrical & Systems Engineering’s Human Interface Technologies (HIT Team) have recently completed an underwater survey of Burrator Reservoir, contributing towards a more extensive virtual reality model of the area.

The team worked with Swathe Services, a specialist in subsea and underwater survey vehicles, to undertake the scan using a robot catamaran equipped with a high-definition multibeam sonar system. The resulting scans highlighted a range of natural and historical features, including roads and a farmstead that were hidden when the valley was flooded in the 1890’s.

Robot catamaran
The 3D scans compared to the 1890's maps of the area

The virtual recreation of the underwater scene will now be merged with the existing VR model and used to recreate the River Meavy Valley as it may have looked in the early 1800s and even earlier, with additional effort required to model the original man-made routes and buildings.  

Robot catamaran

Prof. Stone said, 'We are so fortunate to have been allowed to conduct this survey by South West Water, as Burrator is such an important area for residents of Plymouth and neighbouring towns.  To be able to work with our colleagues from Swathe Services and use this amazing technology to help us to recreate a landscape that has been lost forever is an incredible opportunity.  We really are looking forward to being the first to see what the pre-flooded valley looked like.'

The early results of this exciting new survey will be presented at a special Virtual Burrator event, at South West Lakes’ Discovery Centre on the 11th of February.

The University Team will also create a video of the event by filming the progress of the robot catamaran Switchblade across the surface of the reservoir from the air, using their Inspire 1 Quadcopter.