LINKÖPING, Sweden – Saab Seaeye is claiming a world first after connecting an autonomous vehicle to an Equinor subsea docking station (SDS) to recharge its batteries and download data.
Various offshore industry representatives from Saipem, Oceaneering, IKM Subsea, Eelume, Ocean Power Technologies Modus, ROVOP, and DeepOcean witnessed the operation at Lake Vättern in Sweden to dock the Sabertooth to the SDS.
From the docking station the vehicle was sent on various autonomous transits to perform mock inspection tasks, also returning to the station for recharging and video data download. Saab Seaeye
Blue Logic produced the docking station, which included the company’s inductive power and data connectors. While docked the vehicle was charged and data uploaded and downloaded via the connectors.
Sonardyne’s BlueComm free-space optical modem facilitated live video and vehicle control, with much of the demonstration run with pre-programmed autonomous route plans.
The BlueComm system-enabled motion controls allowed operators to move the vehicle from an automatically held position by set amounts using a touchscreen user interface.
Other highlights included mating of a TMT electric torque tool to a valve panel, with control and video relayed via the BlueComm system; and an underwater simultaneous localization and mapping (UWSLAM), allowing a pilot to ‘see’ the environment as a 3D map in real time while flying around.
By leaving a ‘snail trail’ the system is said to determine precise vehicle positioning relative to the map and provide station-keeping and augmented navigation functions. As the 3D point cloud generated by the system has a resolution of one millimeter, precise measurement of the size and position of objects is possible, Saab Seaeye added.
The company claims the Sabertooth is the only hovering autonomous system that can operate in both AUV and ROV modes and handle connections in both the horizontal and vertical plane, and the sole vehicle currently capable of undertaking long-term residency in hard to access locations.