Boeing and the US Naval Oceanographic Office (NAVOCEANO) have announced the successful completion of more than two weeks of demonstrations of the Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV) system, setting the stage for performing commercial surveys for the world’s oil and gas industry.
Operations were conducted aboard the survey ship USS Pathfinder (T-AGS 60) in the Gulf of Mexico. Under a Co-operative Research and Development Agreement, testing is said to have demonstrated safe and efficient AUV launch, recovery and deck handling equipment and methodologies.
Designed to operate at ocean depths of as much as 10,000 ft, an AUV can autonomously perform survey missions without the need for an umbilical for towing or data transmission.
AUV systems reportedly offer significantly faster surveys in deep water than traditional towed survey systems, as well as improved stability and enhanced navigational accuracy for higher data quality. In addition, it can be mobilised onto a ship in less than 24 hours.
The AUV system features a cage launch and recovery, which is said to have significant benefits over conventional recovery systems. The cage, which houses the vehicle, is deployed amidships. Launched approximately 150 feet below the surface, it protects the vehicle from damage at the air/sea interface and allows for operations in high seas. Testing included multiple launches and recoveries of the AUV. Vehicle operations included site and pipeline route surveys at depths of 3,800 feet.
The new AUV system, developed under a partnership consisting of Boeing, Fugro GeoServices and Oceaneering International, addresses the need for cost effective deepwater survey for the oil and gas industry.
The AUV provides faster and less expensive surveys in deepwater, giving the oil and gas industry better data quality at a significant cost savings. The system is designed to be easily transportable and does not require any special type of vessel for launch and recovery.