The European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) has extended the contract for Schiebel’s Camcopter S-100 UAS to the end of the year after two months of successful maritime surveillance services for the Ministry of the Sea, Transport and Infrastructure of the Republic of Croatia. Based on the Croatian island of Brač, EMSA’s Camcopter S-100 performs regular day and night patrolling flights, on-demand incident monitoring missions and specific inspection operations. Thus far, the UAS, which is equipped with Harris L3 Wescam Electro-Optical / Infra-Red (EO/IR) camera, an Overwatch Imaging PT-8 Oceanwatch payload and an Automatic Identification System (AIS) receiver, has completed 67 missions and 210 flight hours during two months of maritime operations. “We’re thrilled that EMSA extended the contract to the end of the year,” says Hans Georg Schiebel, chairman of the Schiebel Group. “With its extensive experience in the maritime sector and more than 100,000 flight hours around the world, our Camcopter S-100 is a reliable and proven Vertical Takeoff and Landing UAS.” Back in Nov. 2018, Schiebel was awarded a multi-year maritime surveillance contract for a Vertical Takeoff and Landing (VTOL) Remotely Piloted Aircraft System (RPAS) service. Through this contract, Schiebel provides simultaneous maritime surveillance services to several European Union (EU) member states and EU bodies.
Ocean Infinity has placed three separate orders for a total of five Kongsberg Maritime HUGIN AUVs, which will increase the company’s inventory to 15. According to Kongsberg, the AUVs are equipped with the latest generation Kongsberg Maritime HISAS 1032 synthetic aperture sonar, which gives Ocean Infinity a total of six HUGIN AUVs in its fleet that have the ability to deliver high resolution imaging. “We are pleased to continue to support Ocean Infinity’s operations and value the confidence placed in the HUGIN AUV,” comments Thomas Nygaard, vice president Marine Robotics, Kongsberg Maritime. “The capabilities of our Marine Robotics department continue to grow, and complex multiple vehicle operations in ultra-deep water by Ocean Infinity drives that process to push the boundaries of what is possible.” According to Kongsberg, HISAS generates high resolution range independent imagery, as well as full swath bathymetry. Combined with the other sensors on board, the HUGIN AUVs produce an “unrivalled data set,” Kongsberg says, which includes HISAS imagery and bathymetry, EM2040 bathymetry, sub-bottom profiler data and color photographs. “The HUGIN AUV is at the heart our strategy and this further order, which takes our fleet to 15 in total, reflects our clients’ appetite for high quality, highly efficient and highly cost effective outcomes which legacy technologies simply cannot deliver,” says Oliver Plunkett, chief executive office of Ocean Infinity Ltd.
The October 2017 issue of Unmanned Systems looks at the market for UAS sensors and the factors driving new growth; the U.S. Navy’s plan to get a new maritime ‘truck’ for its mine countermeasure work; and a new U.K. testing range for unmanned systems. That and much more including our popular Viewfinder aerial photo gallery and a breakdown of the types of waivers to Part 107 being granted by the Federal Aviation Administration.
The Unmanned Influence Sweep System (UISS) has been cleared for low-rate initial production (LRIP) following the Program Executive Officer for Unmanned and Small Combatants (PEO USC) granting Milestone C approval to the UISS program. The Navy plans to exercise options for the procurement of three LRIP systems on the current Engineering and Manufacturing Development (EMD) contract with Textron Systems, the UISS prime contractor. The UISS is designed for the littoral combat ship (LCS) as part of the mine countermeasures mission package. It is made up of a mine countermeasures USV and a towed minesweeping payload for influence sweeping of magnetic, acoustic and magnetic/acoustic combination mine types. The system can also be launched from vessels of opportunity or from shore. UISS underwent formal Developmental Testing and Operational Assessment off the coast of South Florida, which concluded successfully in late Nov. 2019. Testing consisted of a series of end-to-end minesweeping missions against simulated mine targets using the Navy Instrumented Threat Targets training system. During Developmental Testing and Operational Assessment, LCS Detachment Sailors performed a variety of operations including shore-based launch and retrieval of the system, command and control, mission planning and post-mission analysis. The UISS USV has also completed initial integration tests with the LCS and vessels of opportunity. Based on its Common USV, Textron Systems was awarded an EMD contract for the UISS in Oct. 2014. In 2017, the Navy exercised options for two more vehicles, and they were delivered in 2018 in support of the comprehensive Mine Countermeasures Unmanned Surface Vehicle program that will leverage the UISS USV for missions such as minehunting and mine neutralization. Textron is expected to begin delivery of LRIP systems in fiscal 2021. Below: The Unmanned Influence Sweep System (UISS) heads offshore at sunrise for an Operational Assessment mission off the coast of South Florida in November 2019. The UISS consists of an unmanned surface vehicle and a towed minesweeping payload for influence sweeping of magnetic, acoustic and magnetic/acoustic combination mine types while keeping warfighters out of the minefield. (Photo by U.S. Navy/RELEASED)
Drones and self-driving cars continue to be all the rage at CES, the former Consumer Electronics Show, but autonomous technology is also making its way into things such as motorcycles with self-driving capabilities, flying cars and even underwater drones. BMW made a splash at the show with its iNEXT vehicle, which aims to answer the question about what a vehicle interior can look like when the car no longer has to be driven by a human. “The interior can be a place for relaxation, interaction, entertainment, or concentration, as preferred,” the company says. “It is more like a comfortable and fashionably furnished “living space” on wheels — a new ‘favorite space.’” The controls are out of sight and only appear when a person needs to help operate the vehicle, which BMW dubs “shy tech.” BMW also highlighted its self-driving chops with an R 1200 GS motorcycle that could drive itself. As demonstrated on an outside lot at the event, the R 1200 GS could steer and stop itself while its operator just enjoyed the ride. The technology isn’t intended to replace actual riders, just to make them better, BMW says. “Development of this test vehicle will provide valuable insights into riding dynamics, which can then be used to help the rider recognize dangerous situations and master difficult driving maneuvers,” the company says. Big automakers aren’t the only ones getting into the self-driving act, as there is still room for small companies to gain a foothold. BMW’s iNEXT concept uses lidar and computer vision systems from Innoviz Technologies, a three-year-old Israeli startup staffed mostly by engineers with military backgrounds. Innoviz’ lidar is a “small, solid-state solution,” just a few inches on each side and capable of being mass produced so it’s affordable, says Omer Keilaf, the company’s CEO and cofounder. Going by the SAE standards for vehicle automation, for level 3, which is driver assist, “you need only one,” Keilaf says. “If you’re talking about level 4 or 5 [where the car can drive itself all or some of the time], you probably need several around the car to cover 360, but it’s cheaper than the spinners [spinning lidars, often mounted on the roof].” “BMW is a very tough customer, very demanding,” he says. “We developed three chips, all the optics, all the mechanics, and the computer vision, that’s a lot to do in a short period of time, automotive grade. Thank God we’re not in medical. That’s the only industry I think is worse.” Innoviz' Omer Keilaf displays his company's lidar, which has found a home in BMW's iNEXT self-driving car concept. Photo: AUVSI Flying cars Bell made a splash with its debut of the Bell Nexus concept, a five-seat flying taxi styled like an upsized drone, complete with six ducted-fan rotors. It uses a turboshaft engine to power a generator that in turn distributes power to the motors. “This is our solution for urban air mobility,” says Chad Stecker, the program manager. “We’re targeting a 150-mile range at 150 miles per hour.” The Nexus is aimed at point-to-point urban flying, similar to concepts from Airbus, Uber and others. It takes off vertically and then the fans tilt to provide forward thrust. “We’re actively developing the prototype aircraft,” Stecker says. “We talked about having a certified air vehicle entry into service in the mid 2020s, targeting 2025 right now.” The prototype aircraft will be fully autonomous, he says. Under the sea Another trend that has been picking up at CES in recent years is that of underwater drones, or personal ROVs (remotely operated vehicles). These are essentially smaller, cheaper versions of vehicles that have been used for years by the oil and gas industry and others for underwater exploration. A couple of years ago, there were one or two systems on display. This year, they were numerous, taking up a sizable chunk of the show’s drone hall. One of the pioneers of such systems is Sublue, which sells WhiteShark Max, an optionally tethered underwater drone with six motors. The company started doing underwater inspection, anti-explosive work and other commercial jobs. Two years ago it turned its attention to the commercial world and first got attention by building small motors that pull swimmers through the water, enabling them to stay under longer. “It’s quite a big value if we can utilize some of this robotic technology, including dynamic motion control, or visual AI. That’s why we are coming into this market, and we look forward to bring some change to this very old and conventional market,” says Sublue Vice President Jun Li. Li says competition in the market is good because it will help boost awareness of the state of the oceans, which are warming and increasingly polluted. Next year, the company plans to have an autonomous ROV that can follow a diver around, something that existed only in prototype form at this year’s show. Above: Bell's Nexus flying taxi concept vehicle. Photo: AUVSI. Below: BMW's self-driving R 1200 GS motorcyle at CES. Photo: BMW
As part of a seabed monitoring campaign at the giant Ormen Lange field offshore Norway, Sonardyne International Ltd. and XOCEAN recently used a USV to successfully complete a pioneering live seabed-to-shore data harvesting mission for A/S Norske Shell. Believed to be one of the largest data harvesting missions using a USV to date, the project was completed without a single person having to travel offshore or from their home office. According to Sonardyne, the project was achieved with “significantly less emissions, health and safety risk and cost” than could be done with a manned vessel. “We have always been big advocates of collecting data from our subsea instruments remotely using autonomous platforms. This technology is now coming of age and makes complete sense when thinking about the environment, the safety of offshore personnel and minimizing cost,” says Shaun Dunn, Sonardyne’s Global Business manager for Exploration and Surveillance. “What’s more, thanks to the low hull and propulsion noise USVs can achieve, the data gathering is also faster, adding further to the efficiencies of this approach.” Using an XOCEAN XO-450 USV to harvest data from an array of Sonardyne’s long-endurance Fetch pressure monitoring transponders prevented an estimated 5.4 tons of CO2 per day from being emitted into the atmosphere had a manned vessel been used. Sonardyne notes that XOCEAN’s USVs have a negligible carbon footprint. Additionally, all other emissions are offset, which results in a fully carbon neutral operation. Traveling a total of 300 kilometers from Kristiansund out to the Ormen Lange field and back over just three days, the USV proved its ability to support this type of operation remotely without anyone involved having to travel. The vessel was ‘posted’ to Norway and then launched by SafePath AS, a local marine operations service provider. All other team members worked from their home offices. “Our USV platform has demonstrated itself to be a safe, reliable and ultra-low carbon solution for the collection of ocean data. We are delighted to be working with A/S Norske Shell and Sonardyne International on this ground-breaking project,” says James Ives, CEO of XOCEAN. In support of a long-term seabed monitoring campaign, the Fetch PMTs were deployed in 800 to 1,100-meter water depth at the Ormen Lange field last summer. The Fetch PMTs accurately collect pressure, temperature and inclination data at the seafloor, at pre-programmed intervals. Any vertical displacement of the seabed can be calculated using this data, and this data will help Norske Shell to proactively inform its reservoir management strategy. Sonardyne’s long-life Fetch PMTs are equipped with a high-speed acoustic modem, which allows stored data to be extracted at any time, wirelessly through the water, on demand. During this mission, the XO-450 was equipped with a compatible Sonardyne acoustic transceiver attached beneath its hull.
Sea Machines Robotics has opened a new advanced technology center in Boston that will be used to accelerate product development and accommodate the company’s growing team. Located adjacent to Sea Machine’s headquarters and vessel testing sites in East Boston’s shipyard, the fully renovated workspace provides a collaborative, open working environment, as well as expansive conference and meeting areas. The technology center is also near local restaurants, Logan International Airport and Boston’s public transit system. “The new Sea Machines technology center is exciting as it enables us to collaborate more effectively and develop autonomous marine technology for commercial and government customers,” says Jim Daly, chief operating officer. “This investment reinforces our continued leadership and commitment to making Boston the U.S. hub of maritime autonomous technology, and Sea Machines the unquestioned leader in this space.” The opening of the new technology center comes a few months after Sea Machines announced its new global dealer program to support its sales across key commercial marine markets. The program includes several strategic partners who are authorized to sell, install, retrofit and service Sea Machines’ line of intelligent command and control systems for workboats. According to Sea Machines, its SM Series products, SM300 and SM200, provides marine operators a “new era of task-driven, computer-guided vessel control,” ultimately bringing advanced autonomy within reach for both small and large-scale operations alike. The company’s SM product series can be installed on existing or new-build commercial vessels, and Sea Machines says that a return on investment can typically be seen within a year. Additionally, Sea Machines is also currently developing advanced perception and navigation assistance technology for a variety of vessel types, including container ships. Sea Machines is currently testing its perception and situational awareness technology aboard one of A.P. Moller-Maersk’s new-build ice-class container ships.
Wilhelmsen, which is a global maritime industry group, and Kongsberg have announced the establishment of the “world's first autonomous shipping company,” Massterly. Wilhelmsen and Kongsberg say that by joining forces to establish Massterly, they are taking the next step in autonomous shipping by offering a “complete value chain for autonomous ships, from design and development, to control systems, logistics services and vessel operations.” The companies say that Massterly will benefit from the combined 360 years of experience between them, as Kongsberg brings its “unique technological expertise and solutions” to the table, while Wilhelmsen brings its “world-leading experience in logistics and ship management operations” to the table. “Through the creation of the new company named Massterly, we take the next step on this journey by establishing infrastructure and services to design and operate vessels, as well as advanced logistics solutions associated with maritime autonomous operations,” says Thomas Wilhelmsen, Wilhelmsen group CEO. “Massterly will reduce costs at all levels and be applicable to all companies that have a transport need.” To monitor and operate autonomous ships in Norway and internationally, land-based control centers will be established. In addition, Wilhelmsen and Kongsberg say that opportunities in the development of next-generation maritime personnel will be created, thanks to “Norway’s position as a leading maritime nation.” “Autonomy and remote operations are an important development for the maritime industry and Norway’s lead has been made possible as a result of close cooperation between the Norwegian maritime cluster and the Norwegian authorities,” comments Geir Håøy, President and CEO of Kongsberg. “In recent years there has been rapid development driven by a significant increase in demand from customers worldwide, from the traditional maritime industry and others. When autonomous ships soon are a reality, Massterly will be crucial for digitalizing the infrastructure and operations.” An important milestone in “Norway’s maritime autonomy story” came in May 2017, when “Yara Birkeland” was announced. Anticipated to be the world’s first fully-electric container vessel, Yara Birkeland, which is expected to be completely autonomous by 2020, will sail between Yara's Norwegian production facilities at Herøya and the ports of Brevik and Larvik. Autonomous vessels such as Yara Birkeland can be delivered, and operated, by Massterly, according to Wilhelmsen and Kongsberg. “Currently, we are at the very beginning of this development, but we see and believe that there will be a significant market for these types of services in the near future,” Wilhelmsen says. “At first, short sea shipping will use autonomous ships. This also implies increased competitiveness to move transport from road to sea. The gains are increased efficiency and reduction of emissions. For Norway as a maritime nation, this will be an important contribution to reach the UN sustainable development goals.” Massterly will be based at offices in Lysaker, Norway, and the company is expected to be fully operational starting in August 2018.
This Week in the Unmanned Systems and Robotics World Amazon has announced that its Scout delivery robots have made their way down south and are now operating in two new locations. The robots have begun delivering packages to select customers in Atlanta, Georgia and Franklin, Tennessee. (The Amazon Blog: Day One) Unmanned autonomous vehicles will once again play a key role in predicting more accurate hurricane forecasts during this year’s hurricane season. Known as “hurricane gliders,” the NOAA submarine vessels can swim underneath the ocean for an extended period of time to collect data. (FOX 35 Orlando) In Pensacola, Florida, a relatively new drone company called Upward Drone Solutions has been operating as a sanitation company for the last two months. After reconfiguring a 55-pound drone from its original use of cleaning the outsides of buildings, such as hotels, to disinfecting surfaces with powerful sanitizer, the company has used the drone to sanitize entire facilities such as stadiums, schools, parks, music venues and airports. (Pensacola News Journal) On Monday, July 20, the U.S. Navy issued a $13.6 million contract modification to General Dynamics for continued engineering support for the Knifefish UUV. As a result of the modification, General Dynamics will continue providing engineering support for the U.S. Navy’s Knifefish as the service looks to increase testing and evaluation before entering full-rate production. (Defense News) Through its agreement with Collins Aerospace, the Pendleton UAS Range has announced what it is calling the first ever publicly-accessible Commercial Operator Training Program for the Piccolo Autopilot System. The first course will take place from July 27 to 30, with consecutive courses to follow. (Pendleton UAS Range) In Florida, a three-month, $140,000 driverless shuttle pilot program was approved by Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority’s finance committee on Wednesday, July 22. The following day, the St. Petersburg City Council supported it unanimously. The county transit authority’s full board will vote next week, and if approved, the program is expected to launch on Nov. 15. (TampaBay.com) In New South Wales, Australia, drones were used as part of a five-year trial of shark-mitigation technology that recently wrapped up. A recent survey found that the idea of using drones for this task has public support, as it protects humans and helps keeps sharks safe too. (The Conversation)