Survey specialist Fugro is set to introduce a family of unmanned surface vessels (USVs) into the offshore and offshore wind sectors in the next 12-18 months, OWJ has learned. The new units will deploy remotely operated vehicles, AUVs and could one day deploy above-water survey assets
As first highlighted by OWJ in March 2020, Fugro recently formed a partnership with UK-based SEA KIT International to develop a range of USVs. Examples of the USVs will be able to deploy remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) and autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs) for marine asset inspection, in addition to conducting survey operations themselves.
In March, the company said the first USV would be launched before the end of 2020, but Fugro is already working on plans to introduce USVs of different sizes and in differing configurations and the first will actually be available next month.
In a webinar organised by the DeepWind North of Scotland offshore wind cluster, representatives of the company said the first 12-m SEA-KIT USV would now be available from June 2020.
Additional 12-m SEA-KIT USVs will be available in other regions, including Europe and the Asia Pacific region, in Q4 2020. A 12-m USV capable of deploying an electrically powered ROV (eROV) will be available in the same timeframe.
A larger, 24-m SEA-KIT USV capable of deploying an electrically-powered work-class ROV is expected to be available for delivery in H2 2021.
Fugro said it is working on purpose-built ROV/AUV solutions for the 12-m and 24-m USVs. These would have an ‘enhanced sensor payload’ compared to a conventional ROV. The inspection-related USVs are being developed alongside Fugro’s range of USVs for hydrographic data acquisition.
Speaking at the time the USV plan was first unveiled, Fugro chief executive Mark Heine said the collaboration with SEA-KIT International to develop the USVs was a “major acceleration” of the company’s strategy to develop remote and autonomous solutions which, he said, were the key to delivering “safer and more sustainable ways to construct and maintain marine assets.”
In addition to investing in USVs and ROVs/AUVs, Fugro has built a global network of seven remote operations centres (ROCs) to deliver inspection and positioning services, including two new ROCs in Aberdeen, Scotland, and Leidschendam, the Netherlands, both opened in 2019.
The company said the new range of USVs will consume up to 95% less fuel than traditional vessels, supporting international ambitions for zero global emissions in the marine industry. They could, the company said, potentially make use of solar and wind charging.
In the webinar, the company said USVs could be customised to meet client requirements and highlighted the environmental advantages of the electrically powered ROVs they would deploy.
Data collected by the USVs and the ROVs would be transmitted ashore using a several communications technologies to ensure seamless, secure, uninterrupted availability.
In the longer-term, Fugro has identified a range of applications for the USVs in addition to seabed surveys including logistics, providing support to other vessels, underwater ROV operations, subsea foundation inspection, environmental monitoring and acting as a platform to support above-water inspections.
Fugro has already built up a track record of successfully operating USVs, including recent trials to demonstrate delivery of systems contributing to crewless inspections. In the demos, Fugro’s autonomous surveyor (FAS) was controlled from a ROC and successfully completed a survey of a 5-km of pipeline in water depths ranging from 5 m to 40 m. A 2.3-km section of pipeline was surveyed in 1.5 hours in a 4-m significant wave height sea state.
A remote inspection system was configured to facilitate four live video feeds from the FAS to the ROC with a presentation of live data multi-beam echo sounder data.
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