Unmanned Hydrographic Survey Operations

Amsterdam-based survey company Deep BV will upgrade one of its survey vessels with a Sea Machines SM300 autonomous control system.

The Sea Machines system enables remote command of the vessel, including navigation and positioning, the control of on-board auxiliaries and sensors, and ship-to-shore data flow. The vessel, operating in multiple areas of the Wadden Sea, will be commanded by personnel in the Amsterdam office.

The SM300 autonomy system offers a new world of operational productivity and capability, bringing 21st century task optimization to the marine sectors. Sea Machines reduces and eliminates a number of inefficiencies that have too long been accepted as standard. The technology enhances the value of vessel operations by shifting full-mission vessel control effort from manual to autonomy system, thus enabling personnel to focus less on recurring and repetitive tasks, and more on value advantages.

This Sea Machines system can be installed on new or existing vessels, allowing a fleet manager to leverage state-of-the-art technology without requiring the added expense and time consumed by purchasing a new vessel.

With the SM300, surveyors can remotely monitor and command multiple autonomous vessels from a shipboard or shore-based centre located anywhere with network connectivity. This remote capability increases operational health and safety by reducing or removing high-risk activities generally associated with crew working aboard small survey craft in dynamic marine environments. By breaking the 1:1 crew-to-vessel relationship, companies can better utilize their technical experts across multiple concurrent projects.

Deep will initially deploy the Sea Machines-enabled vessel for a mission to survey the Wadden Sea, a challenging shallow body of water with tidal flats and wetlands located north of The Netherlands. With no surveyors on board the vessel for this project, Deep operators will command and control the autonomous vessel and all on-board payloads (including survey sonars, hydrophones, winches, cranes and davits) from its shoreside Survey Control Room, which has been equipped to facilitate several multi-beam surveys simultaneously. Deep will then transfer all collected data from the vessel to the control room via 4G and satellite connection. The combination of Sea Machines’ technology and the Survey Control Room will enable Deep to transition from minimally manned missions to unmanned missions in the near future.

By Jake Frith

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