Hybrid AUV-ROV has the best of both worlds

Integra, the new  AUV-ROV hybrid from Aquabotix
Integra, the new AUV-ROV hybrid from Aquabotix
The KIGAM team with Ted Curley, holding their new Integra AUV-ROV
The KIGAM team with Ted Curley, holding their new Integra AUV-ROV

“A ROV is a strictly tethered vehicle, so there’s a range issue,” said Dan Vandeweile of Aquabotix. It can’t slip the leash and move too far away from the surface vessel but it can allow high definition video to be seen on the ship above.

On the other hand, “an AUV you can throw in the water and it will collect data for you – but although you do have some basic navigation tracking via a USBL or DVL link, data is pretty limited as it doesn’t have that physical connection”, he explained.

“So,” he said, “We saw a gap in the market for something that could take on both roles.”

In AUV mode the Integra can roam alone via set waypoints or covering a broad area in a “mowing the grass” pattern, using wide-beam or multibeam sonar said Aquabotix Chief Development Officer Ted Curley. On finishing it will come back to the mothership with a list of locations of interest.

Then, when it comes to a fully focused investigation, it can be switched to ROV mode which gives a full 1080px video, narrow beam sonar and so on: “With the tether you can you can actually see everything in real time, as it happens,” he explained.

However, this hybrid vehicle will also be fitted with other devices tailored to the task in hand. “The challenge is that even though sensors and so on are getting smaller, it’s a bit like the kitchen sink... everyone wants to throw something into it,” he said. Just as tricky is that people ask to take these sensors off again: one Japanese customer wanted to both mount and dismount its own sonar device: Aquabotix found a way to integrate it while retaining the ability to swap the kit out again.

Although it can be powered with a line from the surface while tethered “Integra is small enough that you might well want to deploy it from a Zodiac, where there’s no room for a generator” said Curley. So Integra’s AUV and ROV modes both have roughly a four hour or eight-hour duty cycle when running from a single or twin battery pack, depending on payload.

It’s a cost-effective alternative: the Korea Institute of Geoscience and Mineral Resources (KIGAM) recently became the first customer for the Integra hybrid. “They are a research organisation with a limited budget... the Integra is competitively priced and having one, not two machines saves them money,” he concluded.

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