New Wave Media

January 25, 2021

Unmanned Vessel Launched to Survey Western Galveston Bay

The Sea Machines-enabled autonomous vessel Sigsbee conducts survey missions seven days per week, effectively doubling the conventional productivity. (Photo: DEA)

The Sea Machines-enabled autonomous vessel Sigsbee conducts survey missions seven days per week, effectively doubling the conventional productivity. (Photo: DEA)

An unmanned vessel is now surveying more than 3,500 nautical miles of the Western Galveston Bay, near the Houston Ship Channel.

DEA Marine Services, a division of David Evans and Associates, Inc. (DEA), in Vancouver, Wash., equipped its survey boat Sigsbee with a Sea Machines Robotics SM300 autonomous-command and remote-helm control system to fulfill a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) contract.

Sigsbee, which is serving as an autonomous daughter craft for the project, is effectively doubling coverage by operating without an onboard crew, while collaboratively following another DEA-staffed hydrographic survey vessel, which serves as the mothership. The goal is to cover the Bay’s large and shallow survey areas more efficiently than traditional, crewed survey vessel operations. DEA operators located aboard the mothership are commanding the unmanned Sigsbee as it conducts survey missions seven days per week.

According to Sea Machines, its technology coupled with DEA’s technical advancements enhance the value of vessel operations by increasing productivity with collaborative autonomy for force-multiplication and shifting recurring and repetitive operations from manual to autonomous, which enables personnel to focus on higher-level tasks. In addition, interfacing autonomous navigation systems with survey software, including Hypack, enables direct communication and optimizing the combined capabilities of both platforms. Vessel-tracking precision is improved over planned lines to reduce cross-track error and excessive data overlap.

“Deploying the SM300 system for this mission is allowing DEA to conduct marine surveys with improved predictability, speed of data collection and at-sea safety,” said Sea Machines' Phil Bourque, director, sales. “The integration with systems like Hypack are streamlining operations for surveyors and demonstrating our commitment to being a best-in-class technology provider.”

“DEA is committed to the advancement of technology and being on the leading edge,” said DEA Marine Services' Jon Dasler, PE, PLS, CH; senior vice president and director. “We see autonomy as the future of hydrography and have enjoyed working with Sea Machines and additional software vendors for continued improvements in autonomous operations and the use of artificial intelligence in data processing.”

In May 2020, Sea Machines announced that Deep BV, of the Netherlands, would upgrade operations with the SM300 to conduct unmanned hydrographic surveys. Deep’s vessel, operating in multiple areas of the Wadden Sea, has been regularly commanded and controlled by personnel situated in the Amsterdam office.

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