Inertial Navigation & Positioning Technology for Unmanned, Autonomous Systems

Synthetic Aperture Sonar Provided for Deep-Sea AUV

By Mike Ball / 20 Jan 2022

AUV with iXblue synthetic aperture sonar

iXblue has provided Ifremer (the French Research Institute for Ocean Science) with a synthetic aperture sonar (SAS) to be installed on a 6000m-rated Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV) that has been designed for deep sea exploration.

The Sams-150 SAS provides a unique seabed mapping solution that is ideal for deep-sea autonomous vehicles. The result of over 20 years of development within iXblue, this technology is already being operated by navies and scientific institutions around the world, and allows for simultaneous real-time imaging and high-resolution bathymetric mapping of the seabed.

Synthetic aperture mapping sonars significantly reduce the duration of operations at sea and therefore the cost of data acquisition. Following these same considerations, iXblue’s Sams sonar aims to optimize the autonomy of underwater vehicles by seeking the best compromise between mapping coverage and energy consumption.

Bertrand Chemisky, head of civil activities at iXblue’s sonar division, commented: “With a swath width of 500m for a constant resolution of 6cm, our new Sams-150 sonar optimizes the compromise between the resolution and range of imaging solutions. Thanks to its interferometric processing, a high-resolution bathymetric model can be generated simultaneously with the production of the imaging data, thus ensuring a coverage equivalent to more than 10 times the height of water under the sensor. Our SAS technology, coupled with an inertial navigation system and an acoustic positioning system, will ensure precise geo-referencing of each pixel, thus enabling the creation of homogeneous maps over large areas.”

“We are very proud to contribute to this technological breakthrough in deep-sea exploration alongside Ifremer and to be able to participate, at our level, to France’s leadership in deep-sea exploration.”

Jan Opderbecke, project manager for the development of the UlyX AUV at Ifremer, stated: “The UlyX AUV is capable of diving down to 6000 m and navigating on mapping profiles or in quasi-stationary flight near the bottom. It is equipped with a suite of state-of-the-art sensors to produce a set of data on the explored area: high-resolution imagery-bathymetry data with the Sams-150, multi-beam bathymetry, and optical images aided by a laser profiler for photogrammetry. The AUV also implements a set of modular scientific sensors adapted to the scientific mission: physical parameters, chemical analysis, magnetometry, etc.”

“The Sams-150 has been selected based on its specifications for integration and use on the UlyX AUV: size, survey parameters such as altitude, resolution and swath. The unprecedented performance of the sonar and the data processing software chain are real assets. By combining imagery and bathymetry, the data from the Sams-150 sea trials show a significant potential that will bring scientific exploration to a whole new level.”

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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