Exe Estuary Rapid Environmental Assessment Demo, 2018

Unmanned Surface Vessels (USVs) offer the potential for groundbreaking changes to the way waterborne site investigators collect data, not only for routine hydrographic surveys, but also for contingency assignments where existing data does not exist or may be unreliable.

For many, this type data collection may be a part of, but not the sole focus, of the investor’s ‘day job’. As such, reliable and repeatable methods for safe and productive environmental  survey data are in demand today more than they have ever been. In January 2018, HydroSurv gained the opportunity to demonstrate its concept for ultra-portable USVs for Rapid Environmental Assessment, following a funding award as a part of the governments Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (ISCF), demonstrator for robotics and artificial intelligence in extreme and challenging environments. HydroSurv’s project was one of 17 awarded funding to develop and demonstrate systems for fully integrated robotic systems in real-world applications.
Whilst HydroSurv has developed one of the smallest USV systems available today – readily portable in small vehicles, and capable of being launched and recovered safely by just one or two personnel; the mREAV shares many features with larger, more expensive unmanned systems including redundancy in the power and propulsion systems, autonomous navigation and live streaming of survey data into mapping software for rapid environmental assessment. During September 2018, a series of trials were conducted on the Exe Estuary operated the USV on survey missions at worksites with tidal flow (up to 0.75m/sec) running across the survey area. The trials verified the capability of the USV to track a course ensuring an adequate swathe was covered with minimal excursion. The USV was deployed with an EchoLogger ECT400, 450KHz Single Beam Eco Sounder (SBES), multiplexing depth data and position data from the host platform to live stream survey data for real-time visualization in ReefMaster Underwater Mapping Software. This simple, low-cost spread demonstrated the art of the possible for low- cost data acquisition using USVs. The successful demonstrations of the integrated survey concept underpinned a major investment award from the ISCF to enable the company to continue development of advanced USVs for environmental monitoring.