October 4, 2012
to Provide Six REMUS AUVs
For German Navy
After trials by the German Bundeswehr Technical Center for Ships and Naval Weapons (WTD 71) in Eckernförde, Germany, the Federal Office of Defence Technology & Procurement has placed a contract for six REMUS 100 AUVs manufactured by Hydroid Inc. (Pocasset, Massachusetts) to enhance the capabilities of the German Navy’s mine divers.
Delivery of the REMUS 100 systems and operational training of military personnel will occur during the next 12 months, Hydroid said on Tuesday.
The REMUS 100 AUV is equipped with side scan sonar and other sensors. It navigates by transponder interrogation and Doppler velocity log-aided inertial dead reckoning in preprogrammed missions. The recorded data will be used to search for mines, lost objects, debris and wrecks or to collect topographic ocean-floor mapping for hydrographic and scientific applications.
Caption: The REMUS 100 AUV.
Source: Hydroid Inc. press release
VT Halter Marine, DCNS Team Up on USCG Proposal
VT Halter Marine Inc. (Pascagoula, Mississippi) and DCNS (Paris, France) have partnered to submit a proposal to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security for the design and construction of offshore patrol cutters for the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG).
VT Halter Marine will be the prime contractor and DCNS will be its exclusive subcontractor for the offshore patrol cutter platform design.
The USCG stated in its request for proposal, released last week, that it anticipates to acquire as many as 25 OPCs to replace an aging fleet of 28 medium-endurance cutters consisting of 14 Reliance-class cutters (64 meters) built between 1964 and 1969, 13 Famous-class cutters (82 meters) built between 1983 and 1991, and one Alex Haley-class cutter (86 meters) built in 1964.
Caption: The USCG's conceptual rendering of an offshore patrol cutter.
Source: VT Halter Marine Inc. and DCNS press release
Smart Tether Used in Bathymetry and Biotope Survey In Saudi Arabia
Submerged Recovery and Inspection Services (Seattle, Washington) recently assisted King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals (KFUPM) in using a VideoRay (Phoenixville, Pennsylvania) Pro4 ROV to complete more than 200 kilometers of bathymetry and biotope survey transects in the Red Sea.
The purpose of the survey, conducted in a remote part of Saudi Arabia, was to gain a baseline assessment to see if there were any critical habitat areas in or near several proposed oil-well drill sites.
KFUPM used a VideoRay Pro4 ROV with a KCF Technologies Inc. (State College, Pennsylvania) Smart Tether, a LYYN AB (Lund, Sweden) video-enhancement system, a YSI Inc. (Yellow Springs, Ohio) 600XL sonde gauge and a Teledyne BlueView (Seattle) P900-90 sonar.
The survey team had about 100 transects covering more than 223 kilometers that they surveyed to document the bottom conditions. Working from a 25-foot open vessel, the team completed the survey in 18 days, marking and recording more than 2,000 targets of coral, grass, rubble and other assorted bottom features.
The team had entered the coordinates into the Smart Tether software and then flew the ROV in a straight line from point to point. Whatever the bottom topography was, the team would use the Smart Tether software to mark the position accordingly.
The team made more than 5,000 markers during the expedition and took those data points and plotted them on a chart showing bottom conditions. Because the team was able to mark bottom conditions at depths up to 100 meters, they did not have to use divers. The overall data allowed them to say that there were no critical habitats in the proposed well drilling areas.
Craig Thorngren of Submerged Recovery led the survey team.
"This was one of the most difficult and most demanding jobs this gear will ever see," he said. "The daytime temperatures were between 120º and 130º while the water temperature was routinely above 100º. That coupled with the blowing, hot sand really pushed this gear to some extreme environmental conditions, and it worked perfectly each and every time."
See video from the survey, provided by Submerged Recovery and Inspection Services, below.
Caption: The survey team works on marking and recording targets for the bathymetry and biotope survey in the Red Sea.
Source: KCF Technologies press release
MacArtney Inc. Opens Fourth Office
In North America
The MacArtney Underwater Technology Group (Esbjerg, Denmark) opened on Tuesday an office on the U.S. West Coast located in San Diego, California, forming the fourth branch of its North America-based subsidiary MacArtney Inc. (Houston, Texas).
MacArtney West Coast will serve the underwater technology requirements of major OEM, offshore, ocean science and defense stakeholders in California. The office will provide an increased sales base and will have access to a large stock of SubConn connectors, available for immediate delivery.
Existing MacArtney Inc. offices are based in Boston, Massachusetts; Victoria, B.C., Canada; and Houston.
Last month, MacArtney Group also opened a sales office in Perth, Australia, MacArtney Australia Pty Ltd.
Caption: A map of MacArtney locations in Northern America.
Source: MacArtney Underwater Technology Group press release
Q&A: Coralbots, Heriot-Watt University
Researchers at Heriot-Watt University are developing coralbots, a swarm of intelligent robots to help save coral reefs. Scottish corals are threatened by adverse impacts of bottom fishing that damages and kills large areas of reef. At present, this process of regrowth is assisted by volunteer scuba divers reassembling coral fragments on the reef framework. But the method has only limited success because they cannot spend long periods underwater nor reach depths of over 200 meters where some of the deep-sea coral grows.
The swarm of autonomous underwater robots will operate according to a simple set of "micro-rules" to seek out coral fragments and recement them to the reef.
The idea for the project, which is led by Dr. Lea-Anne Henry, with professor David Corne, Dr. Neil Robertson and professor David Lane, was born at a brainstorming session of an interdisciplinary research training event where Henry and Corne came together "in a 'research speed-dating' dance," Corne said. Henry had long had the idea of using robots to help repair coral reefs, and Corne figured that swarm robotics would make it possible.
Sea Technology magazine recently asked the team about how the project is progressing.
What are the advantages to using swarming autonomous robots in this instance, rather than existing technologies?
Corne: Swarm robotics gives us several advantages: The key to it is to recognize that swarms of creatures can build complex and functional things, despite each individual in the swarm being a relatively simple and dumb creature. Translated into a robotics team for constructing or repairing a structure, this means we can get the job done with cheap and easily replaceable robots. It reduces the development time, it reduces the cost and risk, and it is also an extremely adaptable solution—the same robots can be modified easily and quickly to work on similar tasks such as corals at different depths, or on some quite different applications that we are thinking of. The only catch is that it relies on getting the appropriate behaviors programmed in, similar to the microrules that termites or wasps seem to use to build structures.
What are you working on now, and what are the next steps?
Corne: We are progressing on a number of fronts. A key element is the need for the robots to recognize pieces of coral, distinguishing them whatever else is in the surroundings. This is a computer-vision task that relies on having many example images and on state-of-the-art computer-vision technology. Lea-Anne has procured images of the endangered staghorn coral Acropora cervicornis from coral reefs off Belize and Florida.
Henry: The still images of reef corals and other reef objects were collected by scuba diver survey with handheld digital cameras. In the future we will apply the swarm robotics to deep-sea coral reefs, and we use high-resolution stills and video imagery collected by ROV and submersible for this.
Robertson: On the machine vision side, we are working on a related problem, which is the automated classification of barnacle types, with our Orkney [Scotland] campus researchers. We are having some success training the computer to recognize first barnacles from the background seashore. The second phase is to enable the machine to distinguish between the types. The reason this is interesting is because the relative population density of the types is indicative of sea temperature, which is a tracer of climate change.
So, as we gather images of the coral we wish the robots to recognize, we will be applying these techniques to coral recognition and coral-reef recognition, too.
What do you expect the technical specifications of the coralbots to be? Will the robots be built by Heriot-Watt University or made from an existing platform?
Corne: The coralbots will need to be relatively substantial, maybe at least 80 centimeters or so in their largest dimension since the environment they will work in can be very turbulent. They will probably have fairly standard grippers to pick up and place coral pieces.
The Ocean Systems Laboratory, led by David Lane, has several platforms on which to build these. I'm not certain where the basic platforms come from, but I think we will generally be building the final robots at Heriot-Watt University via adapting existing platforms.
What are the challenges in writing and developing micro-rules for directing the coralbot swarm?
Corne: This has been done before to figure out what micro-rules might be used by wasps in building their nests, and this has been successful, in that collections of appropriate micro-rules have been produced that (in simulation) seem to match each of a range of nests from different wasp species.
So far, the way this is done is for a human to come up with a common-sense first cut at the rules, and then they are automatically adapted by a clever algorithm until we get a set of rules that yields the desired result in simulation. This is roughly how we will do it, making much use of simulation and clever algorithms that search alternatives based on a good foundation. One of the challenges here will be to get the rules to work appropriately with navigational parameters and clues, so that the rebuilt structure is in the right place.
How do you design autonomous robots that won't cause any further damage to the reconstruction site, and how will the coralbots handle this?
Corne: The robots will have state-of-the-art autonomous chops, which means they will know where they are and be able not to bump into things or each other. The key issue here is the structure of the grippers—existing technology, utilizing force-feedback sensors, is able to grip sensitively, adapting the tightness as it goes to avoid damaging what's being gripped.
Caption: The coralbot team and the first
iteration of the coralbot.
Sheringham Shoal has 317 megawatts
of capacity and covers an
area of approximately 35 square kilometers. It has 88 wind
turbines, each with a capacity of 3.6 megawatts, that will generate 1.1
terawatt-hours per annum. The turbine blades are each 52 meters long,
and the turbine towers are 80 meters high.
The wind turbines are placed on monopile foundations piled into the seabed. There are two 900-tonne offshore substations, two 132-kilovolt marine cables that come ashore at Weybourne and 21.6 kilometers of underground cable connecting to a new substation at Salle, England. From this substation, the power is transported to Norwich, England, where it enters the national grid.
The completion of Sheringham Shoal means
the U.K. now has more than
2.5 gigawatts of operational offshore wind energy capacity.
Proposed Lease Sale 227, scheduled to take place in New Orleans, Louisiana, on March 20, 2013, will offer all unleased areas in the Central Gulf of Mexico Planning Area offshore Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama, and could lead to the production of 0.46 billion to 0.89 billion barrels of oil and 1.9 trillion to 3.9 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. The sale encompasses about 7,250 blocks located 3 to 230 miles offshore in water depths from 3 to 3,400 meters.
This will be the second sale under the
Obama administration’s new Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing
Program for 2012 to 2017 and the first of five annual Central Gulf
lease sales. The five-year program makes offshore areas with more than
75 percent technically recoverable oil and gas resources available for
exploration and development.
BOEM's Western Gulf Lease Sale 218, held in December 2011, made 21 million acres available and netted nearly $325 million. Central Gulf Lease Sale 216/222, held in June 2012, covered nearly 39 million acres and attracted more than $1.7 billion in bids for more than 2.4 million acres. The next sale, Western Gulf of Mexico Lease Sale 229, will take place in New Orleans on November 28.
According to the Department of the
Interior, U.S. oil production is at an eight-year high, natural gas
production is at an all-time high, and foreign-oil imports now account
for less than 50 percent of U.S. oil consumption, the lowest level
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