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Case study

Seabed-to-desk data harvesting with HydroSurv


December 1, 2022

Combining uncrewed surface vessels (USVs) and cloud services can help offshore wind farm developers and operators collect and act on ocean data faster and more efficiently. Learn how we’re using our expertise to make rapid seabed-to-desk metocean data collection happen with USV innovator HydroSurv.

The challenge

Offshore renewable energy projects need data throughout their lifespans to support proper design, installation, operation, and maintenance*.  This includes bathymetry and geotechnical data, but also metocean data, such as current, wave and sea height characteristics.

Water current profiles, for example, are needed to help locate turbine foundations, cables and cable landfalls. During the life of a project, operators need to understand what’s happening in the water column and at the seabed, to prevent downtime, ensure safe and efficient operations and understand fatigue life.

As wind farms start to be built in deeper waters, ocean data becomes even more critical, as conditions become more complex and especially where floating platforms will be deployed. Water current, height and direction are all critical, for planning and operations.

Traditionally, much of this data is gathered using seabed sensors, such as acoustic Doppler current profilers (ADCPs) and pressure sensors, and conventional crewed vessels. However, when accurate spatial and temporal data is required, this isn’t always efficient. The required frequency of site visits to gain sufficient data increase risk and cost, especially when sites are further from shore. Because of this, there is growing demand for remote, lower cost and emissions survey and data harvesting solutions that help reduce downtime and improve yield.


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The solution

USVs can visit challenging offshore sites more frequently, at significantly lower cost and with much lower carbon emissions than a crewed vessel.

So, we’ve been working with Exeter-based HydroSurv, an innovator in uncrewed vessel technology, to demonstrate the benefits of USV platforms to provide seabed-to-shore rapid data gathering. This was through a collaborative project, co-funded by Innovate UK through its Robotics for a Safer World: extension project.

HydroSurv’s REAV-40 USV was paired with our intelligent seafloor and vessel-mounted instruments, alongside satellite communications and cloud-based services, to provide an end-to-end seabed-data-to-shore service.

That included our Mini-Ranger 2 Ultra-Short BaseLine (USBL) acoustic positioning system, which is popular for use on mid-size USVs. That’s because it provides USVs with an easy to install and use capability to position, track, communicate with and health check and configure/reconfigure mobile and seafloor-based instruments. It’s the link from the seabed to the surface! Like all Sonardyne hardware, it uses Sonardyne’s 6G Wideband spread-spectrum digital signal processing to communicate, track and position any 6G-enabled instruments.

The REAV-40 also had our SPRINT-Nav hybrid acoustic-INS navigation instrument onboard. SPRINT-Nav provides USVs with navigational redundancy, helping them to ride out drops in GNSS signals, which can be a challenge in wind farms and near built up areas or large structures. This also helps to improve multibeam echosounder data gathering, but it can also support station keeping.

The result

This project demonstrated the application of HydroSurv’s USV and Sonardyne’s acoustic communications technology for rapid environmental data collection to Blue Gem Wind, Simply Blue Group and Offshore Wind Consultants (OWC) focusing on the Valorous floating offshore wind project. The demonstration took place in the Celtic Sea.

Using the REAV-40 and our instruments, HydroSurv streamed a live, online demonstration of data harvesting from underwater instruments, straight to a cloud portal to Blue Gem Wind, Simply Blue Group and OWC audiences in multiple locations.

The integration demonstrated real-world capability of USVs, as platforms for integrated systems and sensors, to execute near-real-time critical data harvesting campaigns safely and cost-efficiently for the offshore sector. With our instruments, combined with cloud-based services, they were able to provide near real-time seabed data-to-desk capability, bringing data and value to the customer.

HydroSurv is now making Mini-Ranger 2 and SPRINT-Nav Mini integration available for customers to specify for turnkey integration into its USV platforms.

Ian Godfrey, Chief Operating Officer, HydroSurv: “This collaborative, seabed-to-desk data collection project provided a fantastic opportunity for us to demonstrate a new integrated survey solution for the offshore wind sector. The project has provided a real-world example of the ability to monitor subsea assets at greater frequency, at lower cost and with a significant reduction in carbon emissions when compared to survey campaigns carried out with traditional, crewed vessels.

“We see this integrated solution with HydroSurv’s USV technology and Sonardyne’s subsea communications equipment as a real enabler for the offshore wind sector and others where a win-win reduction in cost and increased visibility of live data and subsea survey asset health provide a new level of service, well suited to the increasingly challenging environments faced by offshore wind farm developers.”

Aidan Thorn, Business Development Manager, Marine Robotics, Sonardyne: “The world is increasingly digital. We now routinely use the cloud in our homes and even the high street, for example. We have all the data we need at our fingertips. It’s time we took more of this capability to our offshore and underwater operations. This project is a step towards that vision.

“Working with HydroSurv, we’ve shown how we can create intelligent networks of sensors and uncrewed platforms. By doing this we can provide users access to the actionable information they need from seabed sensors, in near real-time, wherever they are in the world. What’s more, they can even configure or reconfigure their remote sensors, all from their desktop.

“Put it this way, it’s like having access to your home thermostat from your smart phone, except it’s on the seabed. This is a new digitally enabled way of working, bringing decision-making about operations many kilometres away and hundreds of metres beneath the sea surface, to your fingertips.”

*Read DNV’s Metocean Characterization Recommended Practices for U.S. Offshore Wind Energy or IMAREST’s Metocean Procedures Guide for Offshore Renewables.


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