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Over the past few years, Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUVs) have turned into a viable solution and an established part of operations in military, commercial and research applications. Recently, a next-generation AUV designed for deep sea applications has been formally delivered to Kraken Sonar Systems.
The ThunderFish Alpha (formerly called DEDAVE) was developed by Germany’s Fraunhofer Institute, the largest organization for applied research in Europe, and will be used as a technology demonstrator platform to support the ongoing development of Kraken’s underwater sensor and robotics programs.
According to militaryaerospace.com, the Fraunhofer AUV program was developed to create a versatile and compact vehicle that’s easier to handle than existing systems while providing increased modular payload space and faster turn-around survey times. The vehicle can operate in ocean depths up to 6,000 metres and is equipped with state-of-the-art sensor systems, including Kraken’s AquaPix MINSAS sonar. Other sensors include obstacle avoidance sonars, advanced navigation/positioning sensors, etc.
It incorporates pressure-tolerant battery technology from Kraken Power GmbH, Kraken’s DataPod data storage modules and a distributed control system architecture. This allows the AUV to quickly complete survey missions, offload survey data, enable efficient integration of additional payloads and provide more battery capacity for increased operational endurance.
While the platform will be used primarily as a technology demonstration platform, it will also test operational performance related to maritime Robotics as a Service (RaaS) firms.
Karl Kenny, Kraken’s President and CEO, said, “The recent shift in industry focus from AUVs being platform/hardware-centric to becoming sensor/software-centric is creating significant sector growth potential for cost-effective and autonomous platforms.”
AUVs hold the potential to meet oil and gas infrastructure security challenges through cost-effective deployment of advanced subsea sensors, navigation and positioning technologies over conventional methods. They can be deployed from smaller vessels, employ smaller crews and operate from field resident subsea docking stations, thereby reducing the number of people at sea and reducing or eliminating the number of vessel days required. Because AUVs are inherently faster and more stable platforms than ROVs they can deploy a wide range of sensor technologies (including high-resolution sonar, laser, magnetic, video and others) and collect higher quality data with higher area coverage rates and significantly lower cost.