The Magazine for Underwater Professionals

Oct/Nov 2018


Consortium develops symbiotic autonomy for deepwater survey

ASV Global, UK, Sonardyne, UK, the National Oceanography Centre (NOC), UK, and SeeByte, UK, have successfully delivered a long endurance, multi-vehicle, autonomous survey solution.

A two-week trial in Scotland’s Loch Ness was the culmination of the three-year Autonomous Surface and Sub-surface Survey System collaborative project, part-funded by Innovate UK and the UK Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl).

The aim of the project was to deliver an integrated system to perform low cost, full water column marine surveys using multiple autonomous systems.

During trials in and on the loch, Sonardyne’s USBL acoustic positioning and AvTrak telemetry systems enabled ASV’s C-Worker 5 autonomous surface vehicle to locate, track, command and control the NOC’s Autosub Long Range (ALR) AUV. Position and mission status updates were transmitted to shore via RF communications.

The need to collect more data from the marine environment means that marine autonomous systems need to be at sea for longer. Pairing an AUV or unmanned underwater vehicle with an ASV means that positioning accuracy – crucial for high-quality survey data – can be optimised on missions lasting weeks, if not months, without the need for manned surface vessel support.

This game changing technology can open up dramatic cost savings in a wide range of maritime applications from pipeline survey to scientific coral exploration and deepwater seabed mining, according to ASV Global.

“This project has enabled ASV to extend its survey capability; pairing an AUV with our already proven survey platform, the C-Worker 5, has opened up new opportunities for our technology. We have been able to leverage the experience gained from this project into commercial applications, such as our recent delivery of eight ASVs to Ocean Infinity (USA) for AUV tracking,” said the company’s commercial technical sales manager, James Cowles.

Geraint West, Sonardyne’s oceanographic global business manager, said: “We’ve shown that our technology can enable an AUV to operate autonomously with an ASV and offload its Solstice sidescan survey data using our BlueComm high-speed optical modem.

“Proving acoustic enabled multi-vehicle tracking, command and control, with high-speed through-water data transfer also lays the ground work for long-range, over-the-horizon autonomous underwater vehicle survey operations.”

Matthew Kingsland, senior robotics systems engineer at NOC, said: “We are now able to send down new missions via acoustic communications to avoid the ALR having to surface from six kilometres deep. We are not only tracking, we are getting quality data back from the system via acoustics, so we can make informed decisions.”

Minesto initiates DG500 commissioning programme

Gothenburg, Sweden-headquartered marine energy developer Minesto has initiated the commissioning programme of its first tidal energy project in commercial scale in North West Wales, with initial sea trials of the company’s DG500 tidal energy converter taking place in Holyhead harbour and the Holyhead Deep site.

“The activities in Holyhead are progressing well and we are pleased to have moved on to the commissioning phase of the DG500 project,” said Minesto’s chief operating officer, David Collier. “The commissioning vessels are chartered, and the kite is in the water. We are now performing some initial commissioning steps both in Holyhead harbour and at the Holyhead Deep site, and then we will proceed with further kite operations in Holyhead Deep.”

The DG500 commissioning programme consists of two main phases. First system functionality tests will be performed, before moving on to electricity generation.

The first phase of the commission programme itself comprises a series of tests over different stages, including verification of launch and recovery procedures, testing of each function of the control system, and finally operating the DG500 unit in full figure-of-eight trajectories.

ROV tools for the deep sea

UK-based Ocean Scientific International Ltd (OSIL) reports it has augmented its offering of deep-sea ROV sampling equipment with a multiple water sample collection system with inbuilt water quality monitoring.

The firm said: “OSIL’s range of ROV tools now not only includes the instrumented water sample collection system, but also an undisturbed sediment sampling system, an instrumented pressure activated camera system, and a deep-sea solenoid actuator, which can be adapted to suit application requirements.”

The tools are rated to 6000 metres and have a wide range of applications, OSIL said.

Bibby HydroMap trials DriX autonomous survey vessel

UK-based survey specialist Bibby HydroMap has completed testing of DriX, the eight-metre autonomous unmanned survey vessel (AUSV) developed by iXblue, France.

DriX has the ability to accommodate a hydrographic and geophysical survey payload and to aid positioning of underwater vehicles, facilitating data collection on a variety of marine projects, according to iXblue.

“DriX continues to build its successful track record across the hydrographic and offshore energy markets,” said Guillaume Edeline, business development manager at iXblue. “Thanks to Bibby HydroMap’s commitment to finding new ways to work faster and better, and to the company’s sharp knowledge of offshore renewables, we were able to jointly demonstrate the relevancy of our AUSV in maximising efficiency in an offshore wind farm environment.

“This really was a milestone for DriX, proving once again its versatility, the accuracy of its data gathering and its stability in a range of sea states. We are excited by the results and the promising prospects for DriX and Bibby HydroMap.”

The key purpose of the trials, which were carried out over a five-day period, was to test the performance and survey capabilities of the autonomous vessel in an ever-demanding marine environment, according to Bibby HydroMap.

Testing took place in and around the Gwynt y Môr offshore wind farm, operated by Innogy Renewables UK. The 576MW offshore wind farm is in a tidally-challenging area off the North Wales coast and is the fourth largest operating offshore wind farm in the world.

Specific locations of interest were identified within the wind farm environment to provide a direct comparison with conventional survey methodologies. Fitted with a Teledyne RESON (Denmark) Seabat IDH T50 multibeam echosounder, the system was able to acquire clean bathymetry data at speeds greater than eight knots.

During operations QPS’s (the Netherlands) Qimera Live was running on board DriX, but controlled by technical staff on the support vessel, enabling the fully-processed multibeam echosounder data to be downloaded straight from DriX at the end of each mission.

“DriX has far exceeded our expectations in terms of data quality and performance, and we are delighted to be able to pass this level of quality on to our clients,” said Tom Davenport, operations manager at Bibby HydroMap. “The level of manoeuvrability both in open water and when in close proximity to fixed structures enables excellent productivity, dramatically reducing acquisition time. Being able to rapidly deploy DriX anywhere in the world will let us meet our clients’ requirements on short notice, whilst simultaneously reducing HSE risk and improving output.”





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