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What are the benefits of autonomous underwater robotics?

19th May, 2023 | 4 minute read
By Hollie Moran, Sales and Marketing Manager

With sales and marketing experience across the offshore and maritime industries, Hollie is a natural fit for the role of sales and marketing manager at aae technologies, which she started in 2019.

Ahead of Combined Naval Event 2023 in Farnborough, aae Business Development Manager, Gavin Willoughby, looks at the benefits of autonomous underwater robotics to the defence industry and other military organisations.

Gavin, who has spent nearly twenty years supporting the development of subsea positioning technologies, continues to champion awareness of emerging technologies to combat and neutralise underwater threats.

Turning the tide on naval threats

In short, maritime defence organisations must invest heavily in autonomous underwater robotics to protect personnel. We’ve seen maritime defence organisations invest heavily and increase their dependence on uncrewed surface vessels and autonomous underwater robotics.

The role of AUVs and ROVs

Autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs) and remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) are frequently deployed for intelligence, surveillance & reconnaissance (ISR) operations, as well as anti-submarine warfare (ASW) and mine countermeasure (MCM) operations. Combined with Ultra Short Baseline (USBL) tracking systems, leveraging the right technology will save lives.

In order to protect naval personnel from potential threats, maritime defence organisations are investing heavily and increasing their dependence on uncrewed surface vessels and autonomous underwater robotics.

Benefits of USBL tracking in underwater missions

While these robotic platforms are designed to accomplish specific tasks, such as the identification and neutralisation of potential underwater threats, the successful completion of these missions depends on peripheral subsystems that can provide location awareness, accurate positional information and target guidance, such as Ultra Short Baseline (USBL) tracking systems.

When directing an AUV or ROV towards a known target and monitoring its position during the mission, an Ultra Short Baseline (USBL) tracking system can provide an effective and uncomplicated method of confirming and recording the course of the vehicle.

How it works

The coordinates of a potential target are fed into the USBL’s control system, allowing the vehicle operator to monitor its path and make necessary corrections as it heads towards its intended destination. Without a USBL system, vehicle positions would be unknown, and AUV and ROV operators would be effectively working blindfolded.

One of the more recent developments in maritime defence applications is the use of autonomous surface vessels (ASVs) from which to deploy remote subsea vehicles. ASVs further minimise human exposure to potential threats and create a further set of requirements for autonomous deployment.

Whilst AUVs and ROVs still require tracking and monitoring, this operation may no longer be carried out by operators stationed on a nearby mothership, but potentially from a crew hundreds of miles away. The use of through water acoustics coupled to satellite transmissible data allows human operators to perform their duties while remaining far from the theatre of operation.

What technologies are available now?

OEM versions of aae’s Nexus 2 USBL or MIPS 2 systems are critical catalysts in these types of operation, autonomously providing reliable and accurate subsea positioning, and then utilising radio modem technology to send the data to a remote operations centre.

While vessel-based USBL systems are still pivotal to these operations, they can only provide positional data alongside an integrated, reliable acoustic transducer on the individual vehicle. As a critical component of the system, aae makes a wide range of transducers for direct integration into AUVs and ROVs, providing clear and precise communication between the remote vehicle and its base station.

aae technologies in the defence market

Around 300 of our USBL systems have already been put to work in the defence market, with variants ranging from commercial off the shelf systems (COTS) to specially-designed OEM systems using state-of-the-art acoustic technology, engineered to meet the individual requirements of military groups and defence contractors.

However, as a provider of these key components for MCM systems, it is of fundamental importance that we remain aware of advances in the associated technology in order for us to continue innovating our products in ways that remain relevant to the industry. With potential threats becoming ever more sophisticated, it’s vital that we maintain our ongoing development programs to counter these ever growing challenges.

Whether it’s portable systems used by mobile units on small craft, integrated systems permanently installed on naval vessels or airborne systems deployed from helicopters, our engineers and wider team offer genuine expertise in an industry with a growing reliance on subsea acoustics.

Find us at Combined Naval Event 2023

To learn more about the benefits of aae technologies for underwater tracking and monitoring in defence, make sure to visit our stand on D29.

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