NOAA SEFSC Spherical Camera

If you want to look for fish, you better look all around. What better way to do that than with a spherical camera? To address this task, Riverside’s Southeast Fisheries Science Center (SEFSC) personnel helped design and construct a camera which views 360-degree areas around the camera array. Use of this new camera along with a 3D printer has resulted in more thorough and cost effective surveys. The team has done an amazing job meeting their goal to assemble full-spherical cameras to assist in evaluating the distribution of fishes around the cameras and to make comparisons to single axis view type cameras.IMG_0541

The Reeffish crew from left to right: Andre DeBose, James Johnson, Joey Salibury, Ryan Cailouet, and Matt Campbell.

Part of what the Reeffish Unit does is work with a drop camera system. The objective of the reef fish survey is to sample reef fish populations in the Gulf of Mexico using nondestructive techniques of video technology. This type of sampling is used to develop an abundant index of specifically important reef fish species for NMFS management for estimating species populations for regulatory and management purposes. Team members use digital video technologies and visualization methods to support imagery analysis, simulation, and data record requirements. In the past, a four-camera rig or trap/digital video system was deployed from a NOAA vessel to various hard bottom sites in the Gulf of Mexico. The four cameras took video from each axis of the camera array – like a compass, north/south/east/west axis. Now, the spherical camera views 360-degree areas around the camera array. The video is stitched together at the lab using special software so the video reader can view the video in 360 degrees. A 3D printer was purchased to help in the development of the spherical camera. Ryan Caillouet has used it to generate prototypes of different pieces of the camera system, jigs for sizing parts, and in the camera development. For extra credit – he even used it to help develop a new biopsy tip for the Marine Mammal Unit.


Ryan Caillouet explains the use of the spherical camera and 3D printer during a visit from Brian Ashe, Riverside CEO, and George Smith, Riverside Director of Client-Site Operations.

The biggest issue recent surveys faced was the cost of the cameras, and the size and weight of the array. This was directly impacting the number of samples and where they were getting them spatially. Riverside’s SEFSC personnel cut the cost of the camera build by 75%. Previously, one stereo camera cost $20k, and an entire array would be $80k. With the new camera, this build will deliver full spherical, stereo-vision, and the entire array will cost ~$20k.


NOAA R/V Pisces departing the Pascagoula dock for the 1st leg of the Reeffish Survey where the spherical cameras will be used in a production phase for the first time.

Congratulations to the inventive Riverside SEFSC personnel that turned a challenge into an opportunity!

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