Autonomous, tethered, and towed vehicles are doing important work in defense and security, oceanographic research, offshore and onshore energy, and water resource markets. In fact, unmanned underwater vehicles have become an essential tool for a variety of tasks across all these markets, which is a testament to the evolution of robotics technology. Underwater unmanned vehicles are doing work that is impossible, expensive, or clearly too dangerous to humans.
Many manufacturers build equipment for the ocean environment, however, manufacturers of air and ground solutions are still greater in number. The difficulties associated with engineering vehicle solutions for the ocean environment is not insignificant. Strong currents, incredible pressure, corrosive conditions, and the inability to communicate with GPS require highly engineered solutions to properly design and build vehicles that operate efficiently, communicate effectively with the surface and underwater targets, and navigate accurately in the context of the environment.
Teledyne Marine manufactures a wide selection of unmanned underwater vehicles operating throughout the water column from the surface to the seafloor. The Teledyne brands that operate in this space are industry and technology leaders. The Teledyne Webb Research Slocum glider, originally developed by Doug Webb, has earned its reputation at sea and continues to be the most reliable and versatile underwater glider with over 550 units delivered since 2002. The Gavia Offshore Surveyor AUV has become the low logistics vehicle of choice for the offshore survey market. Gavia’s modular design and small footprint make it easily deployable from a vessel of opportunity and quickly reconfigurable to meet changing mission requirements. These and other Teledyne brands continue to develop and manufacture highly engineered, proven solutions for harsh environments across a broad range of markets and applications.
Littoral Battlespace Sensing: The US Navy awarded the Littoral Battlespace Sensing Glider or (LBS-G) as a program of record in 2009. The gliders have been used operationally since 2012. NAVOCEANO provides the fleet with important information about the ocean to produce regular forecasts, hindcasts, and nowcasts of ocean conditions. In addition to weather applications, various sensors provide detection of systems, assets and people. NAVOCEANO also uses glider data to create models of ocean properties where real world data would otherwise not exist. The gliders provide temperature, salinity, water clarity, and depth information. Gliders provide a more cost effective data collection tool than ship based information. More data can be collected over long periods of time without the need for a supporting vessel, allowing ships to perform other functions. (NAVOCEANO, 2015) Teledyne Webb Research has supplied 142 gliders to the LBS-G program and will provide up to 150 additional gliders for the program through a new sole source contract.
Ordnance Identification and Removal: Remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) are also routinely used for a variety of defense and security tasks. Teledyne SeaBotix MiniROVs are widely used by the United States Navy Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) teams. Specially outfitted SeaBotix vLBV 300s are deployed by the Navy EOD to identify and disable or destroy underwater unsafe ordnance. SeaBotix’ collaboration with the Navy EOD resulted in a highly specialized tool for the military and limits or removes humans from potentially harmful situations.
Understanding Storms: The Cooperative Institute for the North Atlantic Region (CINAR) Storm project is a joint effort to improve forecasting on the intensity of hurricanes and winter storm events in the Middle Atlantic Bight and Gulf of Maine. CINAR leverages the extensive network of observation and modeling capabilities of the region using information from a variety of sources including the National Science Foundation’s Ocean Observatories Initiative Pioneer array. The project includes the use of four dedicated Slocum Storm gliders manufactured by Teledyne Webb Research that perform transects covering the mid to outer shelf for each storm. In addition to the gliders, the project employs profiling floats and portable buoys to gather significant data on approaching storms. The sensor suites on the gliders are customized and include CTD, optical sensors, accelerometers and a current profiler. The vehicles are designed to sample the conditions that control mixing on continental shelves during storms. (Riley Young Morse, 2013) Storm gliders are designed to be deployed into the worst storms to collect data that will help researchers better understand and predict weather events that can have negative impacts on coastal areas and can threaten both lives and infrastructure.
Investigating Natural Oil Seeps: In September 2014, scientists from The Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University, New York, along with other marine scientists, embarked on the second leg of a multi-day ECOGIG (Ecosystem Impacts of Oil and Gas Inputs to the Gulf of Mexico) cruise. One objective of the ECOGIG consortium is to understand the impact of natural oil seepage into the Gulf of Mexico. When catastrophic oil spills occur, they can release more oil than all other sources would collectively release in an entire year. However, in the absence of such spills, nearly half of all oil released into the ocean is from natural seeps. The team from Columbia University needed a cost effective platform for measuring water column properties with a high degree of spatial and temporal resolution. The new BIOGEOCHEM APEX float from Teledyne Webb Research provided the perfect vehicle solution. The float used for this experiment housed several sensors measuring properties such as chlorophyll fluorescence, dissolved oxygen, particulate backscattering, irradiance, and the usual CTD pressure, temperature, and salinity. Measurement of chlorophyll fluorescence can be used as a proxy for phytoplankton abundance, which was one of the primary areas of study. With these sensors installed, one of the goals for this float was to confirm the elevated levels of sub-surface chlorophyll seen near oil seep site GC600.
The APEX float was programmed to execute three profiles, varying between 1200 & 600 dbar, followed by a transition to ‘recovery’ mode during which it remained on the surface, transmitting its location every fifteen minutes. The float was deployed directly over the target oil seep GC600, the position of which was previously known due to satellite-detected oil on the surface. Data from the deployment will undoubtedly increase understanding of how the water column is affected above natural oil seeps, with potential implications for bacterial and phytoplankton communities in the region.
Wreck Identification and Salvage: Teledyne Benthos in cooperation with Teledyne Reson recently built and outfitted a Benthos Deep Tow for Odyssey Marine Exploration. Odyssey Marine is a search and recovery company that recovers interesting assets from the deep-ocean through the identification and salvage of lost shipwrecks. Odyssey Marine has surveyed and mapped more than 26,000 square miles of seabed and spent more than 14,000 hours diving on sites using advanced robotic technology. Odyssey’s mission for the Benthos Deep Tow was to positively identify the exact location of wrecks by using the Deep Tow’s acoustic imaging equipment to accurately map large expanses of the ocean floor efficiently and perform searches at depths greater than 3000m. Targets under investigation using the Deep Tow are the SS Bloody Marsh, a turbine tanker carrying thousands of barrels of Navy fuel oil that was torpedoed by a German submarine on July 2, 1943 on a route from Houston to New York, and the SS Central America, a sidewheel steamer laden with gold from the California Gold Rush, lost in a hurricane off the coast of the Carolinas in 1857. The Deep Tow Vehicle with Teledyne Reson 7125 SeaBat multi-beam sonar systems returned fantastic 3D images of the wrecks. Odyssey Marine Exploration will continue to use the Teledyne Deep Tow to search for, and map, existing and new wrecks.
Pipeline Inspection: Regular safety inspections are required of the pipes carrying oil and gas from rigs and subsea installations. These inspections typically employ high frequency sonars and cameras, both of which require close proximity to the pipe. The inspections need to be conducted end to end and are especially challenging around offshore rigs and subsea installations. Safety is a priority, so a survey solution is required that allows production to continue without additional risk. Operating boat-mounted or towed sonars near offshore installations involves collision risk, requiring production to be halted during inspections.The project team of a major oil company required a solution that would enable engineering-quality surveys from outside the safety exclusion zone. The Gavia Offshore Surveyor is a man-portable low logistics Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV) that can carry a suite of survey-grade sensors. Its small size and highly accurate navigation allows it to follow pipe routes right up to the rigs without risk to the installations. The solution was to launch the Gavia AUV from a vessel well outside the exclusion zone, programmed to carry out the survey autonomously using the AUV’s side scan, multibeam and camera systems. Low logistics AUVs offer many benefits including safety of operations, ease of deployment, and cost when compared to dedicated survey vessels or ROV operations. A small team can carry out a full inspection from a vessel of opportunity, moored safely away from the rig, without stopping production.
Nuclear Waste Inspection: In nuclear energy, storage ponds are sometimes employed to store nuclear products. The contents of the ponds must be routinely inspected and maintained. Recently James Fisher Nuclear Ltd (JFN) worked on a project with Sellafield Ltd, in Northern England using a Teledyne SeaBotix SeaLift vLBV-10 Remotely Operated Vehicle system. Work was required in First Generation Magnox Storage Ponds (FGMSP). The ponds were constructed in the 1950s and 1960s to receive and store irradiated fuel. The ponds are 5 meters in depth and contain 1200 storage skips of irradiated fuel and other items. The ROV’s task is to grasp, lift, and move cobalt 60 cartridges, weighing approximately 5Kg each. The cartridges are inspected and then transferred to a new location.The SeaLift and a fleet of vLBV300 are fitted with an articulating single function grabber arm to handle the heavy lifting. In standard configuration the grabber arm is pointed forward for easy viewing by the primary camera. Once the object of interest is grasped, the grabber arm is rotated down and centered under the ROV for stable lifting. This technique is employed to ensure the vehicle remains stable and fully maneuverable while transporting heavy loads. Since May of this year, over 4500 Kg of waste material has been inspected and repositioned within storage ponds at Sellafield in over 200 hours of operations using Teledyne SeaBotix ROVs.
Shallow Water Survey: Shallow water survey can cause safety concerns prohibiting the use of ships or launches. Oftentimes, the water is too murky to be mapped with the airborne lidar systems used in clear waters. Teledyne Oceanscience supplied a Z-Boat autonomous surface vehicle to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) for use on its Thomas Jefferson survey vessel. With the new Z-Boat (using a single beam echo sounder), Thomas Jefferson can measure depths in areas as shallow as one foot, and get that data into processing almost immediately. The boats are highly maneuverable, have a very shallow draft, and turn in their own length, meaning they can get much closer to piers, pilings, and the shoreline than a full-sized launch. One of the benefits of using off-the-shelf vehicles like Z-Boats is that hydrographers are able to calibrate the boats and put them into use quickly, without the need for additional installation and integration of a survey system. Thomas Jefferson took delivery of the boats in August 2015. NOAA have now qualified the system for hydrographic use, developed first-generation deployment and retrieval systems, and trained a small group of Z-Boat operators.
“Deploying the Z-Boat from the Thomas Jefferson is a significant milestone for the NOAA fleet,” said Rear Admiral David Score, director of the Office of Marine and Aviation Operations. “In the coming decade, these types of unmanned systems will become the norm. We will be able to build on Thomas Jefferson’s experience in unmanned systems as we expand these programs into the broad range of scientific observations that the NOAA fleet provides.”
“Two weeks from delivery to a calibrated system with trained operators is a significant achievement,” said Capt. Shepard Smith, Thomas Jefferson’s commanding officer. “We have already used them to conduct a small survey in Newport, Rhode Island, and we are thrilled with the new capability this boat will give us in our coastal projects.”
Technology in ocean autonomy continues to evolve. Equipment thought experimental just a few years ago is now considered robust and reliable for routine operations on and under the water. Unmanned operations benefit from reduced risk to human life, reduced cost of operations compared to traditional methods, and remote mission completion. Unmanned vehicles can also provide extended length missions or persistent monitoring, offering the user a larger set of collected data.
Through acquisition, collaboration, and research and development, Teledyne Marine is focused on the growth and advancement of its portfolio of surface and underwater vehicles as ideal tools for tasks in a variety of marine markets. Customers can be confident that they are purchasing the technology of today and tomorrow when they invest in Teledyne solutions. Whether customers are discovering the past, gathering information to predict future events, or protecting the environment, sensitive infrastructure, or human life, Teledyne Marine is a dedicated partner in the success of each mission.
Do you remember navigating with a street atlas? What a difference GPS makes. And now it seems every other new gadget includes a GPS chip for supplementary input. Similarly, better navigation tools optimized operations that use unmanned underwater vehicles (UUVs). Plus better navigation permitted expanded capabilities and greater cost-effectiveness. Together these advantages delivered a major gain for users of tethered and untethered UUVs. These are Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROVs) and Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUVs).
Micro Electro-Mechanical System (MEMS) technology is at the heart of Teledyne CDL’s extensive range of motion sensors that includes a variety of specifications, accuracies and external aiding capabilities. Also available is a complete range of fibre optic gyro (FOG) and ring laser gyro (RLG) gyrocompasses, built for marine vehicle navigation. This wide range of commercially available products is mainly for use in subsea marine and in particular, remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) and autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs). CDL products are also suitable for subsea gliders, offering combined motion and navigation requirements for all subsea vehicles.
Over the last few months, VideoRay LLC has rolled out two new additions to their product line – the VideoRay Voyager, an economy ROV system, and a brand new line of customized ROV systems called the Mission Specialist Series.
Ocean X Team’s main focus is to search for hidden treasures such as antique high-end alcoholic beverages and historic artifacts. They started their wreck career by finding an American B-17 bomber in 1992 off the Swedish east coast.
Copenhagen Subsea A/S is a newly created company with the purpose of bringing a range of innovative products to the subsea industry. The products are based on many years of experience with building products for the demanding subsea industry.
If you look closely at any U.S. coastal nautical chart, you’ll likely find that the areas closest to the shore, shoals, and rocks do not have updated depth measurements. In many areas, safety concerns prohibit the use of NOAA ships or launches to survey shallow depths. In many areas, the water is too murky to be mapped with the airborne lidar systems used in clear waters. Now, however, charting those shallow areas is about to get safer, thanks to recent purchases of small, commercial off-the-shelf, unmanned survey vessels.