Mini-Ranger 2 for next-level USV operations
Fugro is expanding the possibilities of remote marine operations with its growing fleet of SEA-KIT X-class uncrewed surface vessels (USVs) and eROVs. Read on to learn how our Mini-Ranger 2 Ultra-Short BaseLine (USBL) positioning system supports their remote capability.
Leading geo-data specialist Fugro has a clear goal – to achieve safer, faster and more sustainable operations. One of the ways it’s doing that is by using uncrewed surface vessels (USV) to carry out subsea inspection, construction support and hydrographic and geophysical surveys operations.
Fugro’s fleet is initially being built with several 12 m-long SEA-KIT X class USVs, named Blue Essence™ by Fugro, with larger SEA-KIT designs planned. These vehicles are operated over-the-horizon from one of Fugro’s onshore global onshore remote operations centres (ROCs).
The Blue Essence™, Fugro Maali 12 m USV can be remotely launched and recovered by personnel at the ROC.
To ensure accurate control and high quality data gathering during its operations using the ROV, Fugro needed a suitable underwater Ultra-Short BaseLine (USBL) positioning system. In particular, Fugro was focused on shallow water inspection operations in 5 – 150 m water depth, that would involve long layback tracking.
Fugro selected our Mini-Ranger 2 Ultra-Short BaseLine (USBL) underwater positioning system and a Wideband Sub Mini 6+ (WSM 6+) transponder/responder for tracking the ROV.
Mini-Ranger 2 provides a high level of performance without the complexity of a deep water USBL system. It’s compact and easy to install, yet supports tracking, telemetry and control with an operating range of 995 m, extendable to 4,000 m.
At its heart is our HPT 3000 transceiver. It’s low weight (9.5 kg in water) and power draw, so it has minimal impact on any USV’s key performance budgets. It’s optimized for use in shallow water, high elevation and long lay back operating scenarios, making it ideal for Fugro’s shallow water operations, as well as much deeper water work.
HPT 3000 is compatible with all our 6G transponder options, supporting a wide range of functionality, including tracking, telemetry and control. That can be with up to 10 targets simultaneously, whether that’s ROVs, AUVs or divers. It’s also popular for use in ocean data gathering, thanks to its high data rate data collection capability from underwater
Fugro’s first SEA-KIT Blue Essence™, called Fugro Maali, was delivered to its base in Perth, Australia, in early 2021. Mini-Ranger 2 was configured with an external AHRS and SVP, as well as Fugro’s Starfix® GNSS, to ensure the best possible results from the system.
The vehicle was put to work straight away on an entirely remote nearshore inspection of three gas trunklines off Australia for the Woodside-operated North West Shelf Project – an industry first.
The inspection covered 1,300 km and included a multibeam survey, visual inspection using the ROV and a cathodic protection assessment of the gas trunklines to comply with Woodside and regulatory requirements, with operations controlled from Woodside’s King Bay Supply Facility and Fugro’s ROC in Perth.
Since then, Fugro Maali has carried out further campaigns through 2021 and into 2022, including subsea asset inspection, benthic habitat mapping and high resolution pipeline surveys.
“We couldn’t be happier with how the Mini-Ranger 2 has performed to date onboard the Fugro Maali USV,” says Matt Lussu, Principal Hydrographic Surveyor, Fugro. “We’ve seen reliable USBL positioning even in moderate sea states. We’ve also had good results with shallow water tracking, even when then ROV is several orders of water depth away from the transceiver.”
Fugro took delivery of its second Blue Essence™ USV in 2021. A third USV is about to be operational in the Middle East. A fourth is in sea trials and a the fifth in build, all with Mini-Ranger 2 onboard. In 2023, the company is also expected to take delivery of its next range USV, the Blue Eclipse™, an 18 m vessel, built by SEA-KIT and based on its XL-class design.
For the USV delivery, we worked closely with Fugro and SEA-KIT to deliver this integrated remote USV operations capability, ahead of the X-Class USV’s first operations offshore Australia.
“SEA-KIT’s mission to provide high-tech solutions to the maritime and research industries that solve both current and future challenges is well aligned with Fugro’s goals,” says Ben Simpson, SEA-KIT CEO. “To deliver this first in a series of USVs and to see it go out, do its job and win awards in the process made us very proud as a team.
“Importantly though, this success was a strong driver for us to continue enhancing the X-class design, alongside the development of larger USVs that can operate further offshore. The first of these XL-class vessels is now in build.”
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