Sonardyne and Wavefront demonstrate their ability to avoid obstacles



The underwater obstacle avoidance technology of maritime defense technology companies Sonardyne and Wavefront has been successfully demonstrated aboard an Unmanned Extra Large Underwater Vehicle (XLUUV) built and operated by MSubs based in Plymouth.

The demonstration of the Vigilant Prospective Sonar was part of the first phase of the UK Defense and Security Accelerator (DASA) ‘Unmanned Underwater Vehicle Test Bench – Opportunity to Integrate’ competition, organized jointly with the Royal Navy and the Defense Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl).

The DASA competition focuses on the testing and validation of off-the-shelf sensors and payloads (COTS), such as Vigilant, to help the Royal Navy understand the future roles of XLUUVs for surveillance, reconnaissance and anti-sub warfare. -marine, and to provide new capabilities to the Royal Navy years earlier than would otherwise be possible.

3D bathymetry and acoustic data

Vigilant, developed by Wavefront and manufactured and marketed by Sonardyne, is navigation and obstacle avoidance sonar for ships, unmanned surface vessels (USVs) and underwater vehicles. It provides crews with long-range automated detection of objects in the water column, telling them where it is safe to navigate and alerting them to potential underwater hazards that could result in a collision or grounding.

The system has two operating modes. In 3D mode, Vigilant produces accurate 3D bathymetry and color-coded depth images up to 600m and up to 100m depth. In sonar mode, Vigilant processes the intensity of the acoustic data to extract position data at long range up to 1.5 km and over a 120-degree field of view. Sonar returns are used to generate alerts that highlight the presence of an obstacle relevant to navigation.

The MSubs S201 XLUUV is being tested by the British Royal Navy to explore the potential capabilities of large unmanned underwater vehicles for future missions.

Bathymetric navigation

For the test, the sonar projector and system receiver array were mounted on the front of the 9m long S201 XLUUV of the MSubs. At just 31cm wide and weighing just 14kg in air, Vigilant is easy to install on a wide range of platforms, including ships, USVs or, as in this case, an XLUUV.

As part of the demonstration, the XLUUV was programmed to travel past the breakwater outside of Plymouth Sound. Vigilant was used to create a bathymetric map which was used by the XLUUV for navigation. The data was also dropped onto existing maps of the area, demonstrating the higher resolution provided by Vigilant.

Ioseba Tena, Chief Defense Officer at Sonardyne, said: “We are delighted to play a role in helping the Royal Navy and program partners test and evaluate technologies that will help the UK stay ahead of its adversaries. in the underwater battlespace.

“The prevention of collisions by sea is a vital consideration for autonomous and unmanned naval platforms. Vigilant can be integrated with these ocean robots to provide essential information to autopilots and command and control systems to aid in safe navigation and maneuvering around dangerous obstacles.

Bret Phaneuff, Managing Director of MSubs, said: “The data from Vigilant is truly impressive and transformative. It provides our XLUUV with instant situational awareness, which will help it avoid obstacles and, with further integration, optimize sailing paths to improve our performance and increase our endurance.

At a depth of 50m, 10 miles south of Plymouth, the vehicle can be seen navigating around an area of ​​shallow water to the north.


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