The drive to use Uncrewed Surface Vessels (USVs) to conduct geophysical survey operations is being led by the energy companies involved in Offshore Wind & Carbon Capture & Storage and consequently being used in Oil & Gas operations too. This has led to many technical and regulatory challenges. 

At XOCEAN we have developed Uncrewed Surface Vessel (USV) technology with the prime aim of collecting ocean data in a sustainable manner. We started by just collecting multibeam bathymetry, backscatter & water column data as well as fisheries single beam data. We then mounted parametric sub-bottom profilers. In 2023 we developed and successfully deployed towed side scan and magnetometer sensors. 

The USV is capable of full “over-the-horizon” operations without a support vessel and this presentation will show examples from the surveys conducted and will discuss some of the constraints and how they were overcome.


Shepard M. Smith

Shepard M. Smith (RDML, NOAA, ret) is the Chief Technology Officer for XOCEAN, which design, build and operate the world’s largest fleet of uncrewed survey vessels.  XOCEAN provides ocean insight in support of the global energy transition and the sustainable blue economy.

Shep retired from NOAA as the Director of the Office of Coast Survey and the US National Hydrographer in 2021.  During his NOAA career, he spent 11 years at sea as a hydrographer and mariner, commanding the NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson for 4 years, including the response to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.  After a yearlong interim retirement during which he hiked the 2200 mile Appalachian Trail, he joined XOCEAN in 2022.

At XOCEAN, he oversees the design and building of the uncrewed surface vessels, support for the 20 USVs in operations, and the incorporation of new technology to drive safety, efficiency, and sensors to support new missions globally.

Joe Wheeler

Joe is the Lead Geophysicist at XOCEAN and brings over 15 years of expertise in marine survey data. Joe’s experience extends from individual geophysical data sets to overseeing large multi-sensor, multi-vessel projects as a Party Chief, Survey Manager and now as Lead Geophysicist. He excels in evaluating data and deliverables from proposal to final reports and into future development projects. With a track record covering projects across the UK, Europe, Taiwan, and Qatar, has contributed significantly to the building of XOCEAN’s geophysical department.