Hydrographic surveying in port environments has traditionally been conducted using small, manned vessels. However, in recent years advancements in technology are enabling these same surveys to be conducted using Unmanned Surface Vessels (USVs). USVs have been used extensively in offshore surveying environments but are increasingly being used to survey nearer to shore, presenting novel challenges to overcome. 

As part of Peel Ports’ Group Marine Strategy, we commenced the process of acquiring a USV in late 2017. The original business case was to provide support to our pre-existing survey capability in Liverpool, with a proof of concept and guide to future innovation forming our investment strategy.  

Our USV was delivered in early 2020, fitted with a survey suite which mirrored that on our traditional survey vessel. Since delivery, we have utilised the vessel extensively across the UK, which has led to a number of insights as to how this disruptor technology can be operated safely and efficiently within a port environment. This experience has then allowed us to further inform our innovation strategy and continue progressing as a hydrographic department.  

This presentation will outline some of our nearshore USV operational experiences, detailing case studies and lessons learnt. It will then describe how we are using this operational experience to inform our innovation strategy within the Peel Ports Group Marine Department, shaping our thinking on what future survey capabilities may look like. 


Niall Mason

Responsible for leading Peel Ports’ in- house survey capability, primarily focusing on delivering hydrographic information for the purpose of navigational safety. Niall has over 6 years’ experience in conducting nearshore multibeam and lidar surveys, utilising both manned and unmanned survey platforms.