Ifremer has chosen ECA Group to develop an innovative ultra-deep Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV) for survey and inspection
Linking ocean science to marine industry
ECA Group will be the prime partner in the CORAL Alliance (Cooperative Off-shore Robotics ALliance), created by Ifremer. The aim of the project? Promoting innovation and competitiveness in an integrated concept, linking ocean science to marine industry. The CORAL ALliance is funded by Ifremer, Provence-Alpes-Côte-d’Azur Region and the European Union (FEDER program). As major stakeholder, Ifremer will be driving the project with engineering and R&D efforts, technical and naval means for qualification of the new system, therefore fostering innovation and expertise on a regional, national and European level. Ifremer will oversee the development of the new AUV vehicle and its associated equipment. Furthermore, Ifremer will develop the AUV control software system in order to meet current and future needs of scientific end users.
High performance in deep-sea survey and inspection tasks
The AUV will be able to accomplish wide coverage acoustic mapping as well as optical inspection by hovering close to the sea floor. “The system will deploy a full range of scientific sensors in modular packages, innovating in design optimization, autonomy, payload volume and navigation capabilities. The AUV will facilitate producing accurately georeferenced, wide area, high resolution and multi parameter representations of deep water marine environments” explains Jan Opderbecke, head of the Underwater Systems Unit, located at Ifremer facilities in Toulon. After a development period of 3 years, the AUV will accomplish its first dives in 2019.
“The association of long endurance survey and low altitude hovering capabilities will have high potential in various fields of application. For future commercialization by ECA Group of this AUV branded A6K, the system specifications are particularly interesting for missions such as deep sea mining survey, oil / gas pipeline inspections, rescue missions and mineral resource exploration”, underlines Claude Cazaoulou, Director of Sales and Business Development from ECA Group Robotics Division in Toulon.
Strong variety of deployment options
“The new vehicle will be deployed from French and international oceanographic research vessels in missions involving other deep water intervention vehicles, starting with Ifremer’s Victor 6000 ROV and Nautile manned submersible” explains Jan Opderbecke from Ifremer. An innovative optical communication device currently under development at Ifremer as well as hovering capabilities of the new AUV will enable real time data exchange with other underwater vehicles. The implementation of combined exploration and intervention operations will enhance the innovation potential offered by this new system.
Furthermore, the following aspects will be developed during the new AUV project:
- The compact and innovative design will be compatible with launch and recovery modesalready developed by ECA Group during ESPADON project in 2016. A containerized transportsolution will simplify system mobilization, reducing operational expenditures.
- The design will as well benefit from ECA Group experience gathered during AUV ALISTAR 3000 developments for hovering capabilities, where high performance pipeline inspections werebeing deployed
- The embedded controller developed by Ifremer will be tightly coupled with the vehicle’ssensor payloads and provide online re-planning and event driven autonomous missionbehaviors. Onboard processing algorithms developed in cooperation with the scientific end–users will allow optimizing long duration missions on high level, meeting well defined scientificgoals. The ability to perform targeted multi-parameter (physical and chemical properties,acoustic, optic, laser scanning imagery) data acquisition will constitute a significantperformance improvement over existing autonomous platforms and will allow the scientificend user to better characterize vast areas of the seafloor.
Long lasting industrial cooperation
“ECA Group and Ifremer have a strong industrial relationship built over the last 30 years” says Claude Cazaoulou, at ECA Group. “We have developed projects such as EPAULARD, the very first autonomous robotic submarine capable of taking photographs at a depth of 6000 m. More recently, ECA Group was strongly involved in developing HROV Ariane, a new hybrid technology which combines the ability to gather high resolution data in 2500 m water depth, performing vertical inspection and intervention tasks while reducing operational expenditures, through the implementation of a ROV and AUV systems in the same architecture.”
About ECA Group
ECA Group offers a wide range of underwater and surface drones AUVs, ROVs, USVs for hydrography, survey, inspection and defense. Based on decades of robotics expertise and experience, ECA Group has developed solutions from man portable AUV such as the AUV A9 to a biggest systems such as the AUV A18 and the AUV A27 ranging from 200m to 3000m water depth capacity and able to massively reduce time and costs of underwater operations thanks to a complete package of mission management and post-processing (UMIS). The ECA Group is a worldwide player, renowned for its expertise in robotics, automated systems, simulation and industrial processes. Ever since 1936 it has been developing complete innovative technical solutions for complex missions in hostile or restrictive environments. Its products are used by a demanding international clientèle requiring the highest levels of safety and efficiency, mainly in the sectors of defense, shipping, aeronautics, simulation, energy and industrial equipment. www.ecagroup.com
Founded in 1984, Ifremer is the French institute for integrated marine science research. Ifremer is placed under joint supervision of the Ministry of National Education, Higher Education and Research
and the Ministry of Environment, Energy and Sea. Ifremer relies on its observation and surveillance capacities to produce scientific knowledge and know-how with economic value, in response to societal problems. Through systemic approach, Ifremer contributes to observation of marine environment at
all scales as well as facilitating the understanding of ecosystems, processes that govern them and the services they offer, in a context of global change. To this end, Ifremer designs and implements research
and monitoring infrastructures for marine environment. It operates an important part of the French oceanographic fleet for the benefit of the entire scientific community. http://wwz.ifremer.fr/