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Collaborating on a new generation of USVs

Partner focus: MARTAC inc.

We recently spoke to Stephen Ferretti, Chief Marketing Officer at our partner Maritime Tactical Systems Inc. (MARTAC) about the use of USVs for marine data acquisition and the development of a new integrated solution that Subsea Europe Services will offer to customers in Europe before this summer.

Stephen Ferretti, Chief Marketing Officer at MARTAC

At Subsea Europe Services, our mission is to drive the marine survey and underwater technology industries forward. But we can’t do it without selecting the best partners and Florida-based USV manufacturer MARTAC is an ideal example of a collaboration that delivers results.

The company’s Devil Ray and Mantas USV portfolios are high-speed and highly innovative autonomous platforms, and the latter is on its way to becoming the platform for our first in-house USV solution.

Stephen, who has been responsible for the strategic worldwide sales and marketing of innovative Unmanned Surface Vehicles (USV) in the Military, Government and Commercial markets for more than six years at MARTAC, is confident that the Mantas T12 model we are unifying with a powerful and flexible integrated Hydroacoustic Survey System (iHSS) will provide new and unique capabilities.

“Our Devil Ray and MANTAS product portfolio are market leading,” he explains. “Their high-performance envelopes, combined with leading edge autonomy, allow these systems to do more for their customers with less operator involvement. That’s beginning to change the way we work in maritime environments."

Longer mission durations

While autonomy has been around in the subsea sector since the early nineties, a human in the loop has always been required, but the goal now is to reach a new phase, where a platform fitted with diverse sensors can essentially operate itself and deliver data as and when it’s needed.

“It’s no secret that the marine environment is at a tipping point,” starts Stephen. “As mankind expands its footprint into the oceans with aggressive mineral exploration, increased shipping, and massive amounts of chemical and plastic pollution, we’re going to see unmanned maritime systems play a greater role in persistent environmental monitoring.”

Research on ocean acidification and carbon capture methodologies, chlorophyll monitoring, aquaculture management, fisheries management, surface and subsurface pollution tracking, and nautical chart surveys and updates are among other applications that can benefit from uncrewed vehicles capable of performing autonomously for extended periods and in varying conditions.

“Manned systems are expensive for long-duration and challenging environment missions. With increased autonomy we’re going to get more frequent and accurate monitoring results that allow governments and companies to react in real-time, leading to the ability to acquire better quality data and resulting insights, with lower operational overhead,” explains Stephen.

Side view of an innovative new unmanned surface vehicle
New USV capabilities will be available in Europe this summer. Image is a rendering of Subsea Europe Services MARTAC T12 platform.

Operating in offshore wind

Another sector that can benefit from new generation USVs with extended capabilities is offshore wind. Operations & Maintenance (O&M) cost reduction programs have resulted in the price of wind energy produced at sea plummeting, which makes it a far more viable proposition to replace highly polluting coal and gas burning power plants. But keeping the costs low, in a time of tremendous growth is not easy.

“With manned systems, start-up and maintenance costs including subsea survey operations are high,” says Stephen. “The result is long-term ROI models that only work with subsidies, and these are going away fast. Operators must find efficiencies in the running of wind farms and a greater focus on USVs, A.I. powered environmental and situation awareness models, and data fusion will enable a more sustainable and cost-effective business model.”

The MANTAS T12 platform is part of such a next generation approach to wind farm O&M, and while its speed, agility and unmatched payload flexibility alone position it as one of the most advanced USVs ever, the ability to operate several vehicles simultaneously with a mothership at the centre of the network could introduce a step-change in offshore surveying.

“Our command & controls system allows users to expand capabilities by creating and operating ‘hydrographic swarms’. These swarms can be launched utilising MANTAS X-class vessels from Devil Ray Expeditionary USVs or any manned vessel. We have successfully performed hydrographic swarms with multiple MANTAS vehicles covering more area and collecting high quality data faster across a range of environments and conditions. The concept works.”

Three unmanned surface vehicles working together
MARTAC has proven the 'swarm survey' concept using Mantas USVs

Safer working

While complete autonomy and swarm surveying still need regulations to catch up, it’s clear that USVs are the future of marine survey in an offshore context at least. The benefits can’t be ignored. The fact that marine surveyors will still be needed ashore means that job-loss scaremongering can, however, be ignored.

“Our USV systems have increased performance and endurance, and along with the new hydrographic technologies coming online, I think we’re going to see autonomous surveying systems adopted and utilised much more. It’s going to be more efficient across the value chain, while at the same time reducing risk as more professionals can work from the safety of shore-based operations, while the robots are out acquiring data in any conditions.”

Find out more about Subsea Europe Services' new MARTAC T12 solution here.


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