Painting a detailed picture of the sea floor

FLOOR PLANS: INSPIRE Environmental CEO Drew Carey, left, talks with Ben Taylor, a geographic information system specialist, at their Newport office. The company gathers imagery and data about the seafloor. Taylor creates visual representations of that information.
PBN PHOTO/DAVE HANSEN
FLOOR PLANS: INSPIRE Environmental CEO Drew Carey, left, talks with Ben Taylor, a geographic information system specialist, at their Newport office. The company gathers imagery and data about the seafloor. Taylor creates visual representations of that information.
PBN PHOTO/DAVE HANSEN

2019 PBN Innovative Companies: Environment
INSPIRE Environmental


FEW PEOPLE EVER SEE the ocean bottom, but plenty of businesses and government agencies need to know what’s going on there.

INSPIRE Environmental uses sophisticated camera technology and innovative visualization software to analyze and explain the seafloor environment for wind- and petroleum-energy companies, seafood producers, environmental regulators and a host of other public, nonprofit and corporate clients.

The Newport-based company was founded five years ago by scientists Drew Carey and Joe Germano. Its staff of more than 20 includes several specialists in the biology, chemistry and geology of the seafloor.

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INSPIRE uses a wedge-shaped profile camera, with a clear faceplate on one side, that can penetrate 21 centimeters into the seafloor and produce “ant-farm” images of the sand or silt and the life within it. Experts analyze the photos and technicians produce maps and graphics that help clients understand the findings.

“The technique that we use allows us to see an integrated picture of the seafloor that includes both a geological understanding and a biological understanding,” Carey said. “Since most of the activity in the ocean affects the bottom, it’s important to be able to see how that responds to any change.”

The information is essential to clients who want to place a cable or pipeline, deposit or clean up dredged material or waste, construct a wind farm or explore for oil.

“There’s a tremendous amount of science behind it – a lot of quantitative data, a lot of details – but fundamentally we’ve figured out a way to bring our imagery into a map. It just blows people away,” Carey said.

One of INSPIRE’s major clients is Orsted, the wind-energy company that acquired Deepwater Wind and its turbines off Block Island in 2018.

“Very early in the Block Island project, we helped [Deepwater Wind] with the location of the cable and the location of the wind farm,” Carey said. Orsted has seven projects in the works in the United States and INSPIRE is involved in all of them.

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