The Magazine for Underwater Professionals
Kawasaki Heavy Industries, Japan, has completed a verification test for an autonomous underwater vehicle in UK waters. Developed using in-house underwater vehicle technologies, the new AUV will provide pipeline maintenance services to the offshore oil and gas industry.
The verification test, which was performed at The Underwater Centre, based on the tidal waters of Loch Linnhe in Fort William, Scotland, used a prototype AUV and charging station; tasks included automated docking of the AUV to the in-water charging station, contactless charging and large-capacity optical communication tests.
Steve Ham, The Underwater Centre’s commercial director, said: “This was a major subsea trial of AUV technology in UK waters. Kawasaki chose us for their testing due to the unique combination of equipment, facilities and subsea test site. Our personnel worked tirelessly to support Kawasaki and it’s a further testament to our dedicated operational team, plus the range of vehicles, equipment and assets available, that mean we can support complex trials and testing such as this.”
During the testing period, representatives from major oil and gas companies, underwater vehicle and equipment operating companies and UK subsea scientific and government organisations attended the Fort William site to view demonstrations.
Kawasaki intends to carry out full-scale development of a pipeline-inspection AUV in Scotland, while its control algorithms will be developed in collaboration with the UK’s Heriot-Watt University. The company aims to commercialise the AUV by the end of the financial year 2020.
Aquabotix, based in Sydney, Australia, and Fall River, Massachusetts, USA, has announced the introduction of its second-generation hybrid underwater vehicle, the Integra AUV/ROV.
Single-person deployable, portable and lithium-ion battery-powered, the new vehicle allows users to conduct multiple underwater missions while providing a cost-efficient alternative to deploying separate AUVs and ROVs for individualised tasks, the company said.
“The Integra AUV/ROV can be configured with multiple sensors and manoeuvred by an easy-to-use intuitive platform accessible from any web-enabled device,” said Aquabotix. “The vehicle is designed for use across several sectors, including law enforcement, research, environmental assessment, defence and infrastructure, and can search wide areas using AUV mode while conducting detailed inspections using ROV mode.
Aquabotix said users can easily switch from AUV mode to ROV mode by attaching the tether to remotely control the vehicle’s six degrees of freedom of motion. When running the vehicle in autonomous operation, all mission planning is completed in an intuitive Windows-based application, it added.
C-Technics, UK, reports it has developed high-level encryption software for use in special versions of its underwater video control systems.
“The new C-Vision Encrypt incorporates software designed to meet AES-256 standard, which can be used to protect highly sensitive video and communications data. Submarine surveys, hull inspections, EOD identification and mission-sensitive information can all be recorded and stored in such secure form,” said a spokesman.
C-Vision is a two-diver, two-camera video and communications controller used by global naval salvage and recovery teams. The system is available in portable form for remote locations or areas of difficult access, or in a rack-mount format for use in containerised dive controls. The video system comprises diver umbilicals, cameras, lights and recording system with up to 300 hours of mission recording of video and voice communications.
Watford, UK-based Teledyne TSS, a division of Teledyne Marine, USA, has announced the expansion of its range of subsea pipe and cable detection and tracking products with the launch of the new, smaller HydroPACT 660 pipe tracking system.
The company said the 660 has been designed to help reduce the cost of subsea pipe surveys by allowing the use of smaller classes of ROVs.
“The compact HydroPACT 660 sports a single small form factor coil array measuring 1200 millimetres by 600 millimetres at a weight of only 15.8 kilograms that offers an operating range of greater than 85 per cent of that of the significantly larger HydroPACT 440 system,” explained a spokesman for Teledyne TSS. “This smaller and lighter coil array suits smaller ROVs such as observation-class or inspection-class. Use of these smaller ROVs for pipe and cable surveys offers customers the opportunity to significantly reduce their operating costs on future projects.”
The HydroPACT 660 operates to 3000 metres depth, and is offered with two different power options: 24VDC or 110VAC. The installation, operating routines and information displays are identical to those used on the firm’s 440 system, utilising the DeepView operating software. The system comes complete with a choice of a vessel-mounted PC or a rack-mount computer.
JW Fishers of the USA has announced the introduction of a new fifth-generation marine magnetometer, the Proton 5.
“The system is fully digitised and displays the current five-digit measurement on a new easy-to-read six-inch (15-centimetre) LCD screen that is backlit for night operations,” explained the firm. “Up to 80 of the previous measurements are displayed graphically in a history plot on the screen. User-friendly menus allow easy configuration of all operation settings.
“System tuning is now possible directly from the control box. The new ‘auto-tuning’ feature greatly simplifies set-up when operating in different locations. This will allow the user to quickly tune the magnetometer without having to disassemble and manually configure the device.
“With the optional altimeter, the towfish distance from the ocean bottom is displayed on the LCD screen.”
A unique feature of the towfish is its ability to be separated into two parts so that it easily fits into a watertight Pelican case for storage and transportation, Fishers added.
The base system includes a 200-foot (61-metre) depth rated towfish, 150 feet (46 metres) of Kevlar reinforced tow cable and a topside control box. Optional USB data output and Tracker 3 mapping software are available which allow the magnetometer readings to be displayed and stored on a laptop computer.
“Target position is displayed and recorded on the computer along with GPS coordinates. An optional Microsoft Surface tablet can be mounted in the control box lid which streamlines the system and eliminates the need for a separate laptop computer,” Fishers said.
Dutch subsea IMR provider N-Sea has announced the launch of Magsense, a vertical gradiometer array specifically designed for highly accurate unexploded ordnance (UXO) campaigns.
Developed in-house by N-Sea, the system has been designed to collect and record high-resolution data in magnetically noisy subsea environments and hostile conditions, “delivering unprecedented accuracy, greater efficiency and enhanced safety in the detection of UXO”.
N-Sea chief operating officer Roddy James said: “N-Sea holds an impressive track record of UXO campaigns, with proven experience in the investigation and mapping of potential targets.
“Magsense has been developed using this knowledge and experience. Specifically designed for wide seabed survey, with highly accurate UXO target detection and accurate modelling, it is suitable for use in all environments. Uniquely, this allows for the collection of high quality, high density gradiometer data in previously inaccessible, shallow tidal areas.”
Arctic Rays of the USA has announced the release of Anglerfish, “a proven robust miniature self-contained deep-sea LED flasher designed to aid in vehicle recovery”, to the wider market.
The 380-lumen LED with its 360-degree collimating optic can be seen from a distance as far away as five nautical miles (nine kilometres), according to the company.
“Its built-in daylight sensor prevents operation during daylight. Standard output is a double burst every two seconds, customisable upon request. The Anglerfish easily mounts to vehicle masts and connects to power and control via a standard three-pin connector,” the firm said.
Anglerfish is currently being used on the REMUS 100 and 600 AUVs. “It was selected because it is low-cost, low-power and is easily installed. In addition, unlike potted LED solutions, its one-atmosphere housing design allows easy repair and replacement and is not as prone to leakage,” said Arctic Rays.
The two-year programme to develop a pressure tolerant lithium-sulfur (Li-S) battery pack capable of powering autonomous vehicles to ocean depths of more than 6000 metres has successfully accomplished the objectives set down in 2015.
A UK-based consortium headed by Steatite and comprising OXIS Energy, MSubs and the National Oceanography Centre (NOC), completed the ambitious project with trials using the newly developed battery pack integrated into a deep-dive autonomous vehicle.
The cells and Steatite’s brand new multi-chemistry battery management system (BMS) can withstand the extreme pressure of 664 bars (equivalent to a water depth of 6640 metres) and a temperature of 4°C without being compromised on integrity.
One of the objectives of the project was to use the neutral buoyancy of the cells to reduce the requirement of adding buoyancy foam to the vehicle. This proved successful, resulting in potential cost, weight and volume savings.
Paul Edwards, divisional director of Steatite Batteries, said: “The project provided a number of challenges which have all been overcome through the hard work and determination of the consortium members. With valuable domain expertise and test resource provided by our academic partners at the NOC, through to successful sea trials and product integration by MSubs, the group can be proud of the world-class achievements and capabilities it has delivered.”
He added: “We are now looking toward the next phase which will see our battery packs successfully deployed in long-term marine autonomous applications.”