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Kongsberg DP System on World’s Largest Construction Vessel. Allseas’ (Châtel-Saint-Denis, Switzerland) Pioneering Spirit will start its first job offshore Norway this summer with an integrated dynamic positioning (DP) and maneuvering system based on Kongsberg Maritime (Kongsberg, Norway) technology. The Kongsberg Maritime delivery includes forward and aft bridge systems in addition to an extensive automation network and the HiPAP subsea position reference system. Eight years in the making, Allseas’ Pioneering Spirit single-lift vessel is the largest construction vessel in the world. With sea trials already completed in summer 2014, Kongsberg Maritime’s Class 3, fully redundant DP system and other vital systems will be put through the paces this summer, when Pioneering Spirit starts its first, and particularly challenging, project, the removal of the Yme platform topsides in the North Sea.

Unmanned Systems Caucus Back in US Congress. Rep. Joseph Heck (R-Nev.) and Daniel Lipinski (D-Illinois) relaunched the U.S. Congressional Unmanned Systems Caucus in March. The caucus will serve as a bipartisan forum to educate members on commercial applications of unmanned systems, current industry trends, and regulatory issues associated with air, land and sea-based autonomous systems. “Unmanned systems have the potential to help grow our economy, strengthen public safety, and improve quality of life,” Heck said. “My goal as co-chair is to work in a bipartisan way with caucus members to educate our colleagues about the wide array of uses for unmanned systems and the benefits of integrating those systems for commercial applications and also to ensure that regulations do not stifle innovation in this emerging industry.” Lipinski said, “Our caucus will keep members of Congress informed so that we can make good decisions about the promotion, regulation and oversight of these systems in order to uphold public safety and safeguard privacy while these new technologies improve our lives and boost economic growth.” An AUVSI report found that this industry is expected to create more than 100,000 jobs nationwide and generate more than $82 billion in economic impact in a decade.

SOI Builds Undersea Vehicle Team. Greensea Systems Inc. (Richmond, Vermont) was selected by Schmidt Ocean Institute (SOI), a nonprofit foundation advancing the frontiers of ocean research and exploration, to join the team developing SOI’s new robotic undersea research vehicle. Schmidt Ocean Institute will produce a series of three vehicles with advancing depth and research capabilities for a hybrid ROV (HROV). Schmidt Ocean Institute has already begun work designing the full-ocean-depth undersea robotic research vehicle, which will operate at depths of 11,000 meters. It will be one of the world’s only robotic vehicles capable of providing scientists real-time access to the deepest parts of the ocean.

Seafloor Gateways Influence Thinning of Totten Glacier. Researchers at The University of Texas at Austin’s Institute for Geophysics have discovered two seafloor gateways that could allow warm ocean water to reach the base of Totten Glacier, East Antarctica’s largest and most rapidly thinning glacier. The discovery, reported in Nature Geoscience, likely explains the glacier’s extreme thinning and raises concerns about how it will affect sea level rise. Totten Glacier is East Antarctica’s largest outlet of ice to the ocean and has been thinning rapidly for many years. Ice flowing through Totten Glacier alone is sufficient to raise global sea level by at least 11 feet, equivalent to the contribution of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet if it were to completely collapse. The ice loss to the ocean may soon be irreversible unless atmospheric and oceanic conditions change so that snowfall outpaces coastal melting. The potential for irreversible ice loss is due to the broadly deepening shape of Totten Glacier’s catchment, the large collection of ice and snow that flows from a deep interior basin to the coastline. Because much of the interior basin lies below sea level, its overlying thicker ice is susceptible to rapid loss if warm ocean currents sufficiently thin coastal ice. The deeper of the two gateways identified in the study is a 3-mile-wide seafloor valley extending from the ocean to beneath Totten Glacier in an area not previously known to be floating. As in the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, complete collapse of the Totten Glacier catchment may take many centuries.

Hybrid ROV Joins Ifremer Undersea Fleet. Ifremer, France’s ocean research institute has added the HROV Ariane to its family of undersea vehicles. It offers new deployment possibilities in remote or autonomous modes of operation up to 2,500 meters depth. Ariane will be used for missions of intervention, observation and mapping, such as in deep-sea canyons. The goal is to have an operating system capable of conducting scientific campaigns in 2016. The HROV complements Ifremer’s existing undersea vessels, including the manned submersible Nautile and the Victor 6000 ROV.

Five-Person Submersible Debuts. OceanGate Inc. (Seattle, Washington) has unveiled the revolutionary five-person submersible, Cyclops 1. Developed in collaboration with the Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) at the University of Washington, Cyclops 1 is OceanGate’s response to increased demand from government and commercial clients for more advanced technologies and capabilities at deeper depths. For the past two years, APL’s internal engineering group has designed the innovative system architecture and spearheaded the integration of critical systems on Cyclops 1. Technologies adapted for the submersible include new hydrodynamic components designed to maximize in-water speed and maneuverability and an automated control system that aims to revolutionize how manned submersibles operate by reducing time spent on vehicle control and increasing time on mission objectives. Cyclops 1showcases a number of systems critical for the 3,000- and 6,000-meter-capable Cyclops 2 and Cyclops 3 submersibles, scheduled for launch in 2016.

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