Ocean Systems Lab  
Ocean Systems Lab Heriot-Watt University Ocean Systems Laboratory

Welcome to the OSL website


The Ocean Systems Laboratory is a multidisciplinary science and engineering research centre that innovates, applies and teaches world class advances in autonomous systems, sensor modelling/processing, and underwater acoustic system theory/design for offshore, marine science, renewable energy and security applications. We are a key member of the Joint Research Institute in Signal and Image Processing in partnership with Edinburgh university. We have also recently joined forces with Edinburgh Institute for Perception Action and Behaviour (IPAB) to create the Edinburgh Alliance in Robotics and Autonomous Systems (EDU-RAS). EDU-RAS harnesses the potential of over 50 world leading investigators from 16 cross disciplinary research groups and Institutes across the School of Engineering & Physical Sciences and The Department of Computer Science at Heriot-Watt University and the School of Informatics at the University of Edinburgh. It's research and training focus is on the broad classes of physical and cognitive interactions between robots, people, environments and autonomous systems. With 7.2M of capital equipment in 2013, it is establishing ROBOTARIUM, a unique integrated facility including humanoids, interactive spaces, field robots, 3D printing and sintering, micro sensor assembly and micromaterial processing for fabrication with state of the art multi-core computing accelerators.

Ocean Systems Laboratory Team


Our research covers three main areas:

  • Autonomous Systems
    In Autonomous Systems, our fundamental work has developed novel planning, obstacle avoidance, world modelling, operator dialog and visual servoing methods for Autonomous Underwater Vehicles and integrated them within open system architectures.
  • Sensor modeling and analysis
    In Sensor modeling and analysis, novel navigation algorithms have been developed sharing information from multiple sensors. Model-based detection and classification algorithms have been successfully developed and trialed seeking mine like objects, seabed trawling impact and marine mammals in acoustic and video data.
  • Experimental Validation
    Our approach has always been to approach research problems by a triangle linking theoretical analysis, software simulations and experimental validation. Our tank facilities and vehicles enable us to validate the theory and simulation findings in real experiments.

Read more ...


The Oceans Systems Laboratory is a leading centre of excellence in underwater robotics and underwater signal & image processing. We are part of the School of Engineering and Physical Sciences and the Electrical Electronics and Computer Engineering Group. The EECE group offers a large range of world leading degrees that are available on their Teaching Pages. We specialise in robotics and vision and have developed a unique collaboration with Universitat de Girona and Universite de Bourgogne to deliver a specialist 2 years course in Vision on Robotics VIBOT. We also offer a specialist 1 year course in Vision Signal and Image Processing VISP.

Read more ...

International Collaborations

Spanning the globe while developing remarkable technology platforms, Ocean Systems Lab has an extensive record of collaborative work with the U.K. and at an international level. Throughout the 1990s, OSL participated in several notable projects such as the EU-funded AMADEUS-I AND AMADEUS-II projects with the goal of developing dextrous arms for underwater manipulation. The EU-funded project ARAMIS (1997-2000) had us developing obstacle avoidance and automatic video analysis algorithms, while the EU-funded project, ALIVE (2000-2003) and AUTOTRACKER (2000-2003) had us tackling autonomous docking and pipeline inspection. The AMASON (2001-2004) project projects were dedicated to the development of sensor fusion techniques. Since we have been involved a number of projects researching multiple vehicle collaborations (MOD funded competition of Ideas project on semantic word models for multi-platforms collaboration, SEAS DTC projects), autonomous manipulation (EU project Trident 2010-2013), persistent autonomy (EU project Pandora, 2012-2015, EPSRC Sustained Autonomy through Coupled Plan-based Control and World Modelling with Uncertainty), archeology (EU project arrows 2012-2015) and more.

SeeByte Ltd was created as a spin-out of the Oceans Systems Lab at Heriot-Watt University in 2001 and was sold to Bluefin Robotics in 2013. Professor Yvan Petillot is currently a Royal Society Industry Fellow in SeeByte ltd. We endeavour to maintain strong links with SeeByte and continue to work together in the future.

We have also worked on bio-sonar techniques with the Office of Naval Research for a number of years (NICOP), as well as been involved with the Systems Engineering and Autonomous Systems Defense technology centre (SEAS-DTC) as the only underwater robotics partner, demonstrating collaborative planning, distributed world-modeling and distributed navigation solutions in real environments on real platforms. We are active in training young researchers in autonomous techniques by co-organising a yearly student autonomous underwater competition at a European level for the last four years under sponsorship from the U.K. funding council EPSRC and the Ministry of Defenses of France and the U.K.

  © 2008-2014 HW Ocean Systems Laboratory