Unmanned Systems News

SPICE AUV equipped with Sonardyne Navigation Technology

Published: 28 Jul 2021 by

Kawasaki Heavy Industries (KHI) has chosen a suite of subsea navigation, positioning and communications technologies from Sonardyne to navigate, track and control its first commercial Subsea Precise Inspector with Close Eyes (SPICE) Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUVs).

The SPICE AUV, complete with a submerged docking system and unique robotic arm for non-destructive testing, is designed for intelligent and low-logistic pipeline and subsea asset inspection operations down to 3,000 m water depth.


The vehicle is fitted with Sonardyne’s industry leading hybrid navigator, SPRINT-Nav, to support accurate and long-duration navigation on its missions while minimising complexity and payload space consumption. 

The SPRINT-Nav 700, selected by KHI, is equipped with the highest performance available sensors, including Honeywell ring laser gyros and accelerometers.

SPRINT-Nav combines Sonardyne’s SPRINT Inertial Navigation System (INS) sensor, Syrinx 600 kHz Doppler Velocity Log (DVL) and a high accuracy intelligent pressure sensor into a single housing, making it one of the smallest combined inertial navigation instruments on the market. 

The SPICE AUV will also use Sonardyne’s AvTrak 6 – combined transponder, modem and emergency relocator beacon. KHI has been using Sonardyne’s Mini-Ranger 2 Ultra-Short Baseline (USBL) system with a Robotics Pack to support tracking and communications during development and testing.  

Subsea Navigation, Positioning and Communications

SPRINT-Nav combines Sonardyne’s SPRINT INS sensor, Syrinx 600 kHz DVL and a high accuracy intelligent pressure sensor into a single housing, making it one of the smallest combined inertial navigation instruments on the market. SPRINT-Nav’s tight integration of raw sensor data at a low level provides unprecedented navigational performance and precision for subsea vehicles.

Built for simple integration on AUV platforms, AvTrak 6 combines the functions of transponder, transceiver and telemetry link in one low power unit, leaving more payload space and power for other instruments. It enables AUVs to undertake simultaneous LBL ranging, USBL tracking via a surface vessel and robust telemetry for AUV to vessel and AUV-to-AUV communications.

Mini-Ranger 2 is ideal for use from smaller vessels, where survey-grade positioning performance is required. It can simultaneously track 10 targets at very fast update rates, is quick to install and has a standard operating range of 995 m, extendable to 4000 m. Sonardyne’s Marine Robotics software pack unlocks valuable additional capability when used with a compatible subsea vehicle mounted instrument such as AvTrak 6. This includes secure data exchange and remote control of multiple AUVs deployed in swarm scenarios.

Noriyuki Okaya, Development & Design section, AUV Department Kobe Shipyard, at KHI said, “Our goal with the SPICE AUV is to enable operational efficiency of inspection operations, to reduce cost and reduce the burden and risk experienced by crews working on support vessels offshore,”

“We believe that Sonardyne’s instruments will support the highly accurate navigation of the SPICE AUV, supporting our goals”

Two SPICE AUVs have already been ordered by a UK-based subsea services company for cable and pipeline inspections, as well as more conventional surveys. The first is due to be delivered to this year.

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