GEBCO-NF Alumni Team completes Technology Readiness Tests of its AUV-USV concept



On Nov. 23, the GEBCO-NF Alumni Team completed Technology Readiness Tests of its AUV-USV concept and “associated combination of communications hardware and software” to process and transmit data remotely.

One of 19 semi-finalist teams competing in the $7 Million Shell Ocean Discovery XPRIZE competition, the GEBCO-NF Alumni Team received support from KONGSBERG experts and technology during the test event, which was held on the fjord outside KONGSBERG's factory in Horten, Norway.

The GEBCO-NF Alumni Team's concept uses the USV Maxlimer, which is a SEA-KIT USV. The USV Maxlimer performed “faultlessly” during the test event, as its ability to launch and recover a KONGSBERG HUGIN AUV was successfully demonstrated, along with its ability to accurately track the AUV on the surface during subsea survey operations.

The USV’s autonomous navigation and AUV tracking capabilities are a result of the integration of the KONGSBERG & Hushcraft “custom developed automation and software configuration in conjunction with KONGSBERG's K-MATE common autonomous control engine.”

K-MATE will also be used by several Kongsberg Maritime-delivered unmanned and autonomous vessels, including the YARA Birkeland, a fully electric container feeder.

Kongsberg Maritime and the Norwegian Defence Research Establishment (FFI) collaborated to develop the autonomy controller, which builds on the HUGIN AUV System.

Alumni of the Nippon Foundation / General Bathymetric Chart of the Oceans (GEBCO) Postgraduate Certificate in Ocean Bathymetry Training Programme lead the GEBCO-NF Alumni Team. The program is in its fourteenth year and runs at the Centre for Coastal and Ocean Mapping at the University of New Hampshire.

Also, GEBCO is the only organization with a mandate to map the entirety of the world's ocean floor.

Over the last year, the GEBCO-NF Alumni Team has worked closely with advisors, industry partners, technology suppliers and developers, resulting in the team being a “truly international group of remarkable diversity representing thirteen countries.”

The partnership with the Nippon Foundation played an integral role in the development of the team’s concept, as it provided more than 3 million US dollars in funding. This funding also provided the unique opportunity for researchers and commercial groups to work together to develop the tools to autonomously map the seafloor.

“It's rewarding to see alumni of diverse backgrounds using the skills, networks and experiences gained through the training program to rise to all of the challenges of this competition, and to work so closely and productively with the industry partners and technology suppliers,” says Rochelle Wigley, Director of the Nippon Foundation / GEBCO training program at the Center for Coastal and Ocean Mapping at the University of New Hampshire.

“It is because of this hard work and collaboration that the team performed so well in the Technology Readiness Tests.”

Bjørn Jalving, EVP Subsea, Kongsberg Maritime, adds, “together with the GEBCO-NF Alumni Team, we have been able to show the amazing potential of the USV / AUV concept as a next generation, long-range, long-endurance ocean capability. USV Maxlimer is able to operate safely and effectively without assistance for months at a time in open waters.”

Ocean Floor Geophysics (OFG) owns and operates the HUGIN AUV deployed by the SEA-KIT USV.

Described as “one of the best equipped survey and pipeline inspection AUVs in the world,” the AUV is equipped with a variety of technologies, including HISAS interferometric synthetic aperture sonar, water chemistry sensors, and a state-of-the-art positioning system, to name a few.

“The range of challenges in developing new technology and ways of extracting more out of existing technology matches the R&D goals of OFG, where the OFG team members have a combination of experience, knowledge and flexibility to tackle any challenge put to them and to ensure that a solution is achieved that is commercially viable,” says Matthew Kowalczyk, CEO of Ocean Floor Geophysics.

“Providing key AUV operations experience and working within this diverse group to integrate the various sub-systems into a complete USV / AUV system is exactly how OFG operates best; as part of a team developing and deploying leading-edge subsea mapping and inspection technologies.”