Good quality training is a key part in reducing the risks associated with any offshore project. Operators who are experienced and confident in the systems they are using, perform tasks quicker,make fewer errors and are able to confidently deal with sudden environmental changes that may affect system performance. Tom Rooney, Lead Trainer at Sonardyne’s Sea Trials and Training Centre in Plymouth, explains how his team helps customers prepare for offshore operations and get the very best out their subsea technology.

The Training Centre

Situated in the historic maritime the city of Plymouth,190 miles west-south-west of London, Sonardyne’s training centre is home to an impressive array of training resources, including a fully equipped training room with acoustic system simulators and three training vessels permanently equipped with a suite of LBL, USBL, inertial and optical technologies.

Our company’s history with Plymouth dates back to the earliest days of Sonardyne – some 45 years ago. The city was chosen as the location to test products due its natural deep water harbour and easy access to a wide diversity of water bodies, water depths and subsea topography. Mayflower Marina, where today we provide most of our practical training, is on the mouth of an estuary where the River Tamar meets the ocean. This creates a particularly challenging environment for acoustic positioning and so serves as an excellent training arena as the local subsea environment undergoes many changes throughout the day.

Training Courses

In order to make sure our customers get the very best out of their Sonardyne equipment, it is vital for us to provide both professional and extensive training. Using our location, facilities and vessels, we’re able to offer scheduled product specific training as well as bespoke training that can cover a variety of Sonardyne products and systems.

sonardyne-training-product-gallery-7Our courses are developed using a professional framework and delivered in a collaborative and inclusive style. Our customers enjoy having the opportunity to learn on live in-water kit, leaving with much more confidence in the equipment and their ability to deal with any challenges they may face offshore.

LBL and Metrology

Fusion 6G LBL is the product of choice for the vast majority of offshore installation projects and so we offer an extensive range of courses to support this demand.

Complete newcomers start with the Fusion 6G LBL Operators course, where they learn the fundamental principles of acoustics and practice the skills to set-up, calibrate and operate the system effectively.

Their employers, and the clients they go on to contract for, can be assured that an LBL competency certificate from us represents a successful assessment of their basic skills.

But as with any profession, technology and techniques move on so it’s important to keep your knowledge up-to-date. For graduates of our Operators course, we now hold one day re-qualification courses and because offshore project commitments can change at a moment’s notice, these top-up courses run weekly and can be booked at short notice.

For more experienced users such as Chief Surveyors and Project Managers, our Advanced LBL course delves deeper into complex topic areas such as the Quality Control of calibration data, array planning and design and metrology. In fact, as metrology is such a multi-faceted topic, we now also offer a specific metrology course which discusses the science behind it all, examines the various methods available, the kit you’ll need and, at the end, hands-on time with our dedicated metrology software package called Connect.

USBL, LUSBL and INS Positioning

Our USBL training can be easily tailored to suit the types of operation you will be conducting. Whether you’re tracking an ROV, towfish or AUV, our popular Ranger 2 and Mini-Ranger 2 USBL systems can be configured to meet your needs. And with assets such as our Falcon ROV on hand in Plymouth, there’s no better way for operators to learn the skills required.

For DP Operators, our Marksman LUSBL course provides confidence in this safety-critical position reference technology and the part it plays in helping a drilling or production vessel remain in the right place.

If your subsea vehicle is fitted with our Inertial Navigation System (INS), SPRINT, our comprehensive syllabus covers the theory of INS positioning, hands-on installation and setup of the hardware (including our new 3rd generation form-factor), testing and calibrations and dynamic tracking operations using USBL, LBL or Sparse LBL as an acoustic aiding source. It also looks at the important role aiding sensors such as your DVL play in producing the optimum navigation solution.


Our two12 metre catamarans, Echo Explorer and Sound Surveyor, provide the venue for the dynamic elements of our courses, and when they’re not engaged in teaching, they can be found supporting our product development and testing activities. Outside of these activities, the vessels, and their experienced marine crew, can be chartered to third party companies to support their own technology trials – be it above water or below water technologies.

Based in Mayflower Marina, these vessels have been specifically designed and built to operate as Survey-class vessels and certified to MCA category 2. Large back decks, spacious interiors and well thought out equipment deployment and handling arrangements, make for a very comfortable learning environment for our students.


Along with these boats, we also have Val B, a fully equipped floating classroom and static test facility with two permanently installed subsea transponder arrays deployed on the seafloor nearby. This unique arrangement gives us the freedom to operate realistic training whatever the weather. The arrays can even be commanded from any of our international training centres in Houston, Singapore and Brazil via a secure network link to provide remote in-water training.

Mission rehearsal and risk management

When it comes to training, one size doesn’t fit all. If you need to perform a particular task or project using our equipment, we can create bespoke courses combining our in-water resources, and where necessary, using our own simulation software. With the ability to emulate as close as possible the project that is planned, relevant skills can be practised and potential problems identified in the training suite, rather than on an expensive vessel offshore. The potential savings in terms of risk and project delays, make this service a wise investment for any offshore project manager.

Workshops and other courses

Courses can be arranged on request for any of our other products including, PIES, Monitor and AMTs, Sentinel, emergency BOP control and Janus INS post-processing. And if you can’t come to us in Plymouth, we can come to you. Our mobile service offers the same expert courses at any of our regional offices or at your location anywhere in the world using our own in-house simulator software.

In addition to our product related courses, we also run regular oneday workshops to allow people to learn about the techniques and get to ‘have a go’ at operating them. These enjoyable sessions are proving to be very popular with those hoping to get into the offshore industry.

We also offer the capability of online learning with webcast tutorials and product refresher sessions that can be enjoyed from the comfort of your desk or sofa at home. Additionally, the team have also begun producing a number of short YouTube videos containing some tips and tricks that Sonardyne customers will find useful.

Our trainers also take the time to support our local community, regularly guest lecturing on acoustic positioning techniques for Plymouth University, the Royal Navy Hydrographic School in Devonport Dockyard, the Marine Learning Alliance in Plymouth and Skill Trade in the Netherlands.

Our team

sonardyne-training-product-gallery-8The Plymouth training team is made up of experienced engineers and hydrographic surveyors who possess and maintain the necessary skills and expertise to operate and teach our full range of software and hardware. Their professional, inclusive and personable approach to practical skill-based training consistently receives high praise and positive feedback from satisfied customers. Supported by our skilled skippers and technicians of the Plymouth facilities team, they ensure every course, workshop or bespoke training session is planned, resourced and delivered to the highest of standards.