Survey has been carried out by unmanned vessels for several years, mostly in the offshore environment, however recent developments in technology are enabling hydrography to be completed in inshore environments such as ports. L3 Harris has completed almost 15,000km of offshore unmanned survey lines since 2015. In these instances, the unmanned vessel was operating in support of a manned survey vessel as a ‘force multiplier’ to double coverage and reduce time onsite. The unmanned vessel was controlled via radio links from a remote station onboard the manned vessel. Whilst this concept of operations proved successful for improving efficiencies, it still relied on humans working at sea.

Upcoming projects will see USVs completing hydrographic surveys in ports and harbours operated from control centres – this will revolutionise the collection of hydrographic data for ports.

The next step will see the realisation of fully autonomous survey operations, minimising operator input from control centres. This methodology has yet to be deployed offshore for survey work but once it is it will unlock the door to true autonomous survey operations. In this case, the risk to human life is removed and operating costs are dramatically reduced.

This presentation will address the technology and capability required for autonomous survey to become a reality. It will analyse the current readiness level of that technology by discussing numerous case studies from operations completed in the last 2-3 years and providing insight into live R&D programmes.


Andre Fabik

Andre joined L3Harris as Technical Sales Manager in May 2021 after 6 years in the commercial hydrographic survey sector, and before 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.