Hydrographic survey conducted by uncrewed vessels has become an accepted part of the marine data delivery industry over the last 4-5 years. It has become widespread in a range of environments, from inshore coastal waters to far offshore ocean, from port management surveys to production of a world ocean floor map. Adoption of USVs for ocean data collection has progressively increased in speed as the inherent benefits of uncrewed operations have been realised; reduced environmental impact, risk to personnel and of course cost.
As adoption of USV technology has moved from risk taking innovators to an early majority convinced of its’ effectiveness, so too have the demands of the market evolved. This market has for some time been asking for the benefits that USV operations have brought to what has almost exclusively been hull mounted sensor data collection to be extended to broader work scopes, specifically those involving a geophysical data collection component.
This paper will explore how advancing readiness levels in three key strands of technology have combined to prove an enabler for USV solutions to satisfy this market demand. The key areas examined will be USV control system capabilities, satellite internet services and Launch and Recovery Systems (LARS). Whilst in isolation the overcoming of technological barriers in any one of these three technology strands would have been insufficient in enabling wide scope USV operations, the temporal proximity of solutions in all three have made them a reality.
Andre joined L3Harris as Technical Sales Manager in May 2021 after 6 years in the commercial hydrographic survey sector, and prior to that 16 years in the Royal Navy as a hydrographer. He now leads on providing L3Harris’ unmanned vessel solutions to the survey, offshore energy and research sectors and supporting adoption of unmanned technology across the maritime domain.