Kongsberg Maritime’s pioneering work on unmanned surface vehicles (USV) was awarded the Offshore Support Journal’s Subsea Innovation Award
Accepting the award, Kongsberg sales manager David Mackay hailed the company’s marine robotics department’s work on the Sounder USV. Mr Mackay said the innovation “will improve productivity, reduce operating costs and reduce carbon footprint,” adding that Kongsberg foresees a strong future for USVs.
Kongsberg expanded its offerings in the unmanned and autonomous vehicle segment with the Sounder USV in April 2019. Sounder is a multipurpose platform, designed to work across different market segments including survey and fishery duties.
It was developed as a joint venture with project partner Norsafe AS, a Norwegian lifeboat manufacturer. Norsafe was chosen for its experience in constructing vessels for operation in extreme environments.
The Sounder platform’s operations are managed by the K-Mate autonomous surface vehicle control system, developed in partnership with the Norwegian Defence Research Establishment. The K-Mate system provides autonomous, supervised and direct control abilities that allow an unmanned vessel to be programmed to follow survey patterns, autonomously follow AUVs, or track a mothership.
The company said the Sounder USV has been "configured from the keel upwards as a new platform to deliver hydro-acoustic data quality, efficiency and productivity". A range of different sensor types can be mounted on the USV, including Kongsberg EM2040 multibeam echosounders for mapping and HiPAP positioning and communications systems for long baseline and AUV support.
The payload on the USV can be rapidly changed as the Sounder’s 19-inch rack hardware and hull-mounted moonpool are both removable. The system is also able to operate from ship or shore, and is compatible with launch and recovery systems. The USV system is designed for continuous operations up to 20 days at a speed of 4 knots.
Kongsberg Maritime vice president, subsea sales, Stene Førsund said “More and more businesses, from many categories within the maritime industry, are starting to see the vast and comparatively untapped potential of USVs as a means of autonomously and cost-effectively harvesting enormous quantities of high-quality data,”
In addition to the Sounder USV platform, Kongsberg’s geo-acoustics subsidiary also launched a compact USV product – GeoPulse – that mounts a lightweight sub-bottom profiler.
The GeoPulse USV has an operational range of up to 2 km and can access areas that more conventional systems are not able to, according to the company.
It mounts Kongsberg Maritime’s GeoPulse Compact sub-bottom profiler, which has more than 100 decibels of noise-free dynamic range, enabling it to provide repeatable, high-quality data without the need for user-controlled analogue pre-processing.
The system combines penetration and resolution to provide a clearly defined return of sediment layers. It features adaptable digital processing and waveform-selection technology (2-18 khz), allowing for optimal power signatures, pulse shape and configuration for a range of survey tasks. Pulse forms available include frequency-modulated, continuous wave and Ricker.
GeoPulse’ electric motors give it six hours of operational capability at a survey speed of 6 knots, it has an interchangeable battery pack and can be controlled from a laptop computer using GP1000 software, which is interfaced to the deck unit via an ethernet radio modem.