Uncrewed Trans-Atlantic Survey (UTAS) Project
The Uncrewed Trans-Atlantic Survey project aims to demonstrate the capabilities of current technologies to survey unexplored or to-date inadequately surveyed ocean frontiers. SEA-KIT is collaborating with industry partners through the provision of its 12m SEA-KIT X class remotely-controlled USV (Uncrewed Surface Vessel), in a bid to prove true over-the-horizon survey capability. This project is being co-funded by the European Space Agency under its Business Applications programme.
Many of the earth's ocean floors remain unmapped due to the immense challenges and costs faced in trying to reach them.
Through the use of a remotely-controlled USV as a mother ship for other remote vehicles, such as AUVs (Autonomous Underwater Vehicles) and ROVs (Remotely Operated Vehicles), the UTAS mission demonstrates the ability to conduct remote survey operations as well as USV endurance and true ocean-going capabilities.
The SEA-KIT USV is controlled via satellite communication from a remote operation centre and can switch between communication systems as required.
Uncrewed vessels have beneficial applications in many maritime sectors, for example oil and gas, offshore renewable energy, security and surveillance, environmental survey, marine mammal observation, scientific research and for the ocean mapping community. Sector stakeholders need more cost-effective and environmentally-friendly alternatives to large vessels. For the scientific community, the right vessel can prove difficult to find and high costs are incurred for add-on operations.
In addition to reduced carbon emissions and reduced cost, the offshore renewables and oil and gas sectors are keen to find ways to reduce the number of personnel working offshore and improve safety. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of uncrewed vessels, both now and in the future, to ensure that vital operations can continue in a socially-distanced and controlled way, something that would be very challenging within the confines of a crewed vessel.
The UTAS project is currently in the final stages of planning, with the SEA-KIT X USV preparing to mobilise from the SEA-KIT base in Tollesbury, Essex for sea trials and the fitting of project partner equipment.
The USV is scheduled to depart from Plymouth in August 2020 to begin autonomous survey operations from Rockall Bank. Exact route planning is subject to change due to current COVID-19 restrictions on travel and logistics.
SEA-KIT is working with several industry partners on the UTAS project, each with the collective aim to demonstrate how current technologies can help us complete the mapping of all ocean floors in the next ten years.