Autonomous USV Used for NOAA Survey

By Mike Ball / 26 Jan 2021
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Survey USV with Sea Machines autonomy technology

Sea Machines Robotics’ SM300 autonomous-command and remote-helm control system has been used by DEA Marine Services to convert its Sigsbee survey boat into an unmanned surface vessel (USV), in order to undertake a contract with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). DEA is using the vessel to survey more than 3,500 nautical miles of the Western Galveston Bay, near the Houston Ship Channel.

The converted Sigsbee is collaboratively following another DEA-staffed hydrographic survey vessel, which is serving as the mothership. The combination of the two ships will allow DEA to cover the Bay’s large and shallow survey areas more efficiently than a traditional, completely manned survey operation. DEA operators located aboard the mothership are commanding the autonomous Sigsbee as it conducts survey missions seven days per week, effectively doubling the conventional productivity of this type of survey.

The combination of the SM300 autonomy and remote control kit with DEA’s technical advancements provide the following enhancement for survey vessel operations:

  • Increased productivity thanks to collaborative autonomy and force-multiplication
  • Automating recurring and repetitive operations, enabling personnel to focus on higher-level tasks
  • Interfacing autonomous navigation systems with survey software, including Hypack, enabling direct communication and optimizing the combined capabilities of both platforms
  • Improving vessel-tracking precision over planned lines to reduce cross-track error and excessive data overlap

Phil Bourque, Director of Sales at Sea Machines, commented: “Deploying the SM300 system for this mission is allowing DEA to conduct marine surveys with improved predictability, speed of data collection and at-sea safety. The integration with systems like Hypack are streamlining operations for surveyors and demonstrating our commitment to being a best-in-class technology provider. Sea Machines is pleased to to support DEA and NOAA during this critical mission and others like it in the future.”

Jon Dasler, senior vice president and director of DEA Marine Services, said: “DEA is committed to the advancement of technology and being on the leading edge. We see autonomy as the future of hydrography and have enjoyed working with Sea Machines and additional software vendors for continued improvements in autonomous operations and the use of artificial intelligence in data processing.”

Posted by Mike Ball Mike Ball is our resident technical editor here at Unmanned Systems Technology. Combining his passion for teaching, advanced engineering and all things unmanned, Mike keeps a watchful eye over everything related to the unmanned technical sector. With over 10 years’ experience in the unmanned field and a degree in engineering, Mike’s been heading up our technical team here for the last 8 years. Connect & Contact
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