There are several reasons for the ascendancy of commercial Autonomous Surface Vehicles (ASVs) for unmanned marine surveys.
Just as the practice of using lines with weights attached to measure the depth of the ocean has become obsolete, so will the method of slowly trawling one survey line at a time with manned boats and ships.
The Human Factor
One big factor that traditional survey methods require is an abundance of human participation. Deploying people into the ocean can be expensive and complicated for long duration missions. Where human participation exists so does the potential for human error, fatigue, and other HSSE issues.
ASVs can greatly reduce or in some cases eliminate the need for manned operations. This helps minimize operational overhead and significantly increase productivity. ASVs can be programmed with a preset survey plan, leaving time available for other tasks, or as a “force multiplier” when used in conjunction with manned vessels.
Balancing Form and Function
There are several reasons for designing and customizing ASVs to fit the needs of the marine survey mission. One size seldom fits all. There are a wide variety of sensors that can be deployed for various water depths and mission objectives.
What kind of operational conditions will it be used in?
An ASV can get into areas where traditional survey boats cannot. If the marine survey mission requires the ASV to operate in hazardous waters or harsh conditions, the ASV’s size, hull shape, propulsion and power systems need to be suited to the mission.
What if the mission requires access to restricted access? There are areas where manned vessels are not allowed, such as ponds and lakes that contain hazardous materials, or even testing ranges where manned operations are restricted during certain periods of time. The ability to deploy unmanned vessels into these restricted areas allows a mission to proceed without delay and without exposing humans to risks.
What function/applications will it be performing?
An ASV can deploy essentially all of the same sensors traditionally deployed from manned survey vessels, ranging for bathymetric, geophysical, water quality, archeological and scientific instrumentation. The ASV’s navigation and control systems can actually control the vessel to run survey grid lines in a very precise pattern. These survey grids can be preloaded into the ASV’s control systems, or sent to the ASV over WIFI, Cell or Satellite connections.
The Future of ASV Applications and How this Impacts Future Design
In today’s era of sustainability, scaling down large fossil fuel burning vessels has become more prevalent. By removing humans from a ship, you can also remove living quarters, the gally, bathrooms, food storage, fresh water and waste processing systems, and a substantial amount of space and subsystems required to support life at sea. With future ASVs, the ability to collect data, monitor the quality of the ocean and its sea life will be accomplished more regularly and more efficiently, with a much smaller Carbon Footprint.
ASVs will be able to stay on the water for longer periods, constantly collecting data at a lower cost than traditional manned vessels. As a result, ASVs will no doubt be instrumental to the Seabed 2030 Project.
ASVs are still an emerging technology and SeaRobotics Corp (SRC) has over 20 years of experience in designing and manufacturing field-proven marine robotics for commercial markets around the world.
While commoditized ASVs exist, especially for shallow and coastal water surveys, experience in working with customers to define custom adaptations and fit-for-purpose capabilities is paramount for us.
This is what SRC understands by bringing to market a portfolio of tightly integrated ASVs, defined by class, but which offer the customer flexibility and interchangeable payloads.
See how our portfolio of ASVs can enhance your hydrographic survey capabilities.