NAUTILOS, a Horizon 2020 Innovation Action project funded under EU’s the Future of Seas and Oceans Flagship Initiative, aims to fill in marine observation and modelling gaps for biogeochemical, biological and deep ocean physics essential ocean variables and micro-/nano-plastics, by developing a new generation of cost-effective sensors and samplers, their integration within observing platforms and deployment in large-scale demonstrations in European seas.

The principles underlying NAUTILOS are those of the development, integration, validation and demonstration of new cutting-edge technologies with regards to sensors, interoperability and embedding skills. The development is always guided by the objectives of scalability, modularity, cost-effectiveness, and open-source availability of software products produced.

Bringing together 21 entities from 11 European countries with multidisciplinary expertise, NAUTILOS has the fundamental aim to complement and expand current European observation tools and services, to obtain a collection of data at a much higher spatial resolution, temporal regularity and length than currently available at the European scale, and to further enable and democratize the monitoring of the marine environment to both traditional and non-traditional data users.


Activity 1: Technological development of sensing and sampling marine instrumentation

The technological developments rely on multidisciplinary approaches that include several engineering disciplines (electronics, machining, optics, signal processing, etc.) and oceanographic and environmental disciplines (chemistry, biology, physics, geochemistry).

NAUTILOS cost-effective sensing and sampling marine instrumentation are being developed to target a range of key environmental variables and to be integrated within existing, low-energy consumption platforms.

Activity 2: Integration

The integration phase is carried out in two ways: 

  • Platforms integration – novel multi-platform cooperative network for future autonomous and integrated ocean observation and monitoring are being realised by enabling the coherent, interoperable and common communication and network integration of a lander platform, ASV and AUVs. 
  • Sensors to platform integration – communications, data logging systems, protocols and adaptations to the platform are carried out as required on the respective platforms. Integration of payloads and sensors will also be done on fishing vessels and FerryBox Ships of Opportunity, a new generation of profiling floats, mooring buoys and a lander platform. A non-invasive tagging system for seafaring animals are integrated with a COTS oxygen sensor in preparation for deployments. 
Activity 3: Calval and Scenario Testing

Calibration and laboratory validation for developed sensors and samplers are carried out to evaluate performance and functionality in relevant, end user specific environments against reference standards and equipment ensuring that sensors with differing methodologies and requirements manage to deliver data of the highest quality. In controlled scenario testing of platforms and sensors, joint operations of multiple platforms with integrated sensors and existing observatories, are also carried out. Environmental threshold conditions are sought to generate important technical feedback. Joint operations are being organized between lander, ASV and buoys at the POSEIDON Heraklion Coastal Buoy (HCB) with novel equipment such as acoustic sensors, sonar and cameras being used for key seabed habitat mapping. Cross-evaluation is conducted by comparable assessment performed by divers. A controlled scenario is carried out in a station in Capo Tirone, Italy integrating three data collecting systems (AUV, boat and a buoy). Verification and preparatory flights with the UAV platform and integrated sensors are carried out in Portugal. 

Activity 4: Demonstrations of sensing and sampling technologies in operational environment

Demonstration activities are carried out with biological, biogeochemical, chemical, and microplastics sensors and samplers in the Adriatic Sea, Aegean Sea, Baltic Sea, Coast of Norway and Archipelago of the Azores Island. This includes using commercial fishing vessels and FerryBox Ships of Opportunity for fisheries/aquaculture management and marine mammal habitat assessments, demonstration of integrated operations of fixed and mobile (sea surface and aerial) observing platforms in coastal and shelf sea regions (fixed point observatories, FerryBoxes, UAVs, ROVs and ASVs), integrated operations in deep-sea fixedpoint observing systems, ARGO profiling float systems in open ocean and deep sea, and observing by animal borne instruments.

Activity 5: Data Management

NAUTILOS aims to make accessible and freely available as much marine data as possible by allowing a data flow towards existing infrastructures and integrators globally accepted and used by the ocean observing community, such as CMEMS, EMODnet, SDC – SeaDataCloud – SeaDataNet, etc. NAUTILOS works to the relevant standards from the outset (INSPIRE, OGC), and promptly supplies relevant field data to the Member States (e.g. BODC, MEDIN), European (e.g. CMEMS), and International bodies (e.g. GOOS). 

NAUTILOS uses and integrates data from multiple platforms and sensors and operationally implements the data management and data transfer to the appropriate Data Assembly Center (DAC) or well-identified official European data repositories. The resulting environmental data is processed to a form that meets widely accepted data standards such as: MEDIN discovery metadata standard, INSPIRE data specification, etc. For new parameters or data with a less structured data flows, the project designs and develops specific Thematic Assembly Centers (TACs) by adopting and adapting best practices developed for other parameters and anticipating the European integrators and infrastructures. 

Activity 6: Data Modelling

Hydrodynamic, biogeochemical and plastic pollution modelling is addressed in different sites and using different methodologies. OSSE is performed using new NAUTILUS set of variables. 

  • The ROMS model is applied for a larger fjord system covering an aquaculture farming. 
  • The POM model is used at the Mediterranean basin scale coupled to the ERSEM biogeochemical model, including a carbonate chemistry module and downscaled to an aquaculture site. 
  • The MOHID model is used at the coast of Algarve using two downscale levels for high resolution near the coast. OSSE based on long term Nature Runs is used to evaluate the benefit of new sensor data developed in NAUTILOS. 

Analysis relies on the use of EKF and IS4DVAR methods for that purpose. A toolbox for generating synthetic sampled data from the NR is created. A Lagrangian Individual Based Model, coupled with the hydrodynamic and biogeochemical models, are used to track the fate of macro- and micro-plastics from major source inputs. Particles increase of sinking velocity due to biofouling, an important process for the fate of microplastics and also macroplastics thin films such as plastics bags, are parameterized using the biogeochemical model.  

Activity 7: Dissemination, awareness raising and knowledge-transfer

NAUTILOS Outreach, Communication and Dissemination Strategy aims to maximise the project’s visibility, to support engagement of stakeholder groups in a continuous dialogue and to promote the activities, tools and outcomes of the project. 

Two capacity building trainings focusing on NAUTILOS marine technology, ocean health and the ESPCE strategy are planned, directly leading to an increase in research capacity by training early career scientists and also distributing e-learning courses to a much larger audience. 

Activity 8: Exploitation and Impact

NAUTILOS Exploitation Strategy ensures the long-term availability of cost-effective sensors and the sustainability of the concepts developed within NAUTILOS. An exploitation plan, including an exploitation roadmap, is drafted to identify and describe all key exploitable results (KERs) of NAUTILOS and propose an exploitation strategy for each. 

A NAUTILOS task force, led by the Technological and Innovation Manager, has been appointed in the 2nd half of the project to identify parties interested in the marine technologies, models, data, methodology and know how accumulated during NAUTILOS. 

The project’s exploitation plan, the development of an open access marine instrumentation roadmap and a study of the replicability, transferability and scaling up of NAUTILOS instrumentation foster large-scale exploitability of NAUTILOS developments, taking into account the IOC Criteria and Guidelines on the Transfer of Marine Technology, transfer of knowledge to other entities, and positively impact the development of marine observation sectors beyond the project’s length.  

Activity 9: Citizen Science Experiments

Two-way knowledge transfer between science and community is enabled via 5 citizen science campaigns demonstrating NAUTILOS instrumentation thus ensuring an impactful outcome, increased awareness and improved understanding of community needs and priorities.  

Temperature, salinity and chlorophyll sensors are provided to diving associations for measuring and recording different environmental parameters. 

А cost effective sampler and a fluorescence sensor are developed for micro-plastics detection and quantification. 

А smartphone micro-plastic NIR scanner device is developed as a citizen science tool for imaging, collecting, identifying, and characterising plastic contaminants in the marine environment. Citizen scientists are enabled to download such data at regular intervals and upload them to a dedicated online platform serving also as a visual database of collected data (creation of thematic maps). 

NAUTILOS products assist all phases (environmental monitoring, awareness enhancement, behavioural change, policy making) of the management of the environment under a unified EU and national legal framework, by increasing data collection and availability to all stakeholders. 

Activity 10: Synergies with ESPCE

NAUTILOS aims to establish collaborations in relation to the European Strategy for Plastics with current and past research and innovation projects, initiatives and networks; to establish collaborations with relevant stakeholders (e.g. industry, policy makers, economic institutes, NGOs); to raise citizen science awareness; to improve the quality, value and extent of blue economy capacity building by providing new tools and essential knowledge to a range of stakeholders. This is initially don via two capacity building initiatives in Greece and Norway, and later achieving wide-scale impact by distributing the training as open access e-learning module.


SO1: Develop and demonstrate improved observing systems in coastal and shelf-sea environments
SO2: Develop and demonstrate improved observing systems in the open ocean and deep-sea environments
SO3: Develop and demonstrate improved observing systems for anthropogenic debris (i.e. macro-, micro-,nano-plastics)
SO4: Develop and demonstrate improved observing systems in commercial operations, i.e. fishing vessels, aquaculture facilities, ships of opportunity
SO5: Develop and demonstrate improved observing systems that utilise animal-borne instruments
SO6: Quantitatively assess the potential improvements on ocean simulation, ocean forecasting and remote sensing derived from NAUTILOS developments
SO7: Appropriately collate, process, and archive all primary environmental data generated during NAUTILOS to ensure that it is maximally Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, and Reusable.
SO8: Promote and enable the widespread adoption of the NAUTILOS developments to the widest possible range of users and stakeholders (UN legislators to citizen scientists)
SO9: Promote and develop a broad range of collaborations and contributions to international, regional, and national fora concerned with the sustainable management of marine resources and the protection of marine biodiversity with a specific focus on the European Strategy for Plastics in a Circular Economy


IMP1: Support the implementation of the G7 Future of the Seas and Oceans initiative, the Paris Climate Agreement, the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development, and the needs of the Marine Strategy Framework Directive
IMP2: Achieve at least TRL 6 for ocean observation systems and tools
IMP3: Contribute to regularly measure 50% of biological and biogeochemical EOVs, including in the sea below 2000 m, and predict negative impacts of ocean acidification and other selected stressors to take timely preventive measures, notably to protect aquaculture resources
IMP4: Lay the foundations for and contribute to the sustainable management and protection of marine and coastal ecosystems to avoid significant adverse impacts (UN SDG 14).
IMP5: Increase scientific knowledge, develop research capacity and transfer marine technology, taking into account the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission Criteria and Guidelines on the Transfer of Marine Technology, to improve ocean health (UN SDG 14).
IMP6: Improve forecasting of climate changes, weather and ocean conditions to protect human activities, in support of UN SDG 14 and other relevant goals, and of the objectives of related conventions (for example on biodiversity).
IMP7: Shorten the time span between research and innovation and foster economic value in the blue economy
IMP8: Improve the professional skills and competences of those working and being trained to work within the blue economy and in the context of open data sharing.IMP9: Contribute to policy making in research, innovation and technology
IMP 9: Contribute to policy making in research, innovation and technology
IMP10: Increase data sharing and increase integration of data
IMP11: Contribute to determining the distribution and fate of marine litter and micro-plastics