The second half of 2018 is shaping up to be a very exciting one for iXblue Australia, with a few large survey projects in progress.
We also have several survey system development projects underway. These are nearing completion and should allow us to undertake testing and trials before the end of the year.
New survey vessel reduces costs for large surveys
The major project for the iXblue Survey Division is the new unmanned survey vessel – DriX. The decision to design and build an unmanned survey vessel (USV) was made to solve the problem of survey cost. We needed a solution to offer our clients better value for money without compromising on data quality.
After many years of ‘chipping away at the edges’, it was clear that the only cost driver on the table that offered significant cost savings for large survey projects was vessel cost.
The ability to use small, unmanned survey vessels to drive around the multibeam sonar system showed significant promise as the best way to reduce the cost of large area, long duration surveys. Financial modelling suggested that this would be particularly true for projects that could utilise multiple USV from a single support ship.
The key requirements for our unmanned vessel design
The design of the DriX had to meet several key requirements. It had to:
- have exceptional seakeeping abilities for its size, with the aim being that it would be able to operate in wind and sea states that a 30m or larger vessel could operate in.
- be acoustically quiet and ideally it had to have the Multibeam sonar at least 1.5m below the sea surface to provide optimum acoustic conditions for the sonar.
- have a high average survey speed that could be comfortably maintained for several days at a time between refueling
- have a relatively simple mechanical layout in order to be reliable and readily maintained in the field.
The DriX result - a unique design like no other
We are thrilled with the end design. DriX is unique, and unlike any other design on the market today.
The key requirements demanded a very efficient hull form in order to deliver a high average speed with a small, economical propulsion system.
- The hull is nearly 8m long, but only 80cm wide. This allows for speeds of up to 14 knots from a small, 4 cylinder marine diesel engine and several days of non-stop endurance at survey speeds of 10 knots.
- The combination of the unique nose section and the Multibeam gondola mounted 2m below the water line, result in a vessel that cuts through and under the waves as opposed to ‘bouncing’ and ‘rolling’ over them as per traditional hull forms.
Exceptional data quality
The data quality obtained from the DriX Multibeam is as good as we have seen from any vessel installation that we have undertaken in the past, and gives us total confidence that we will soon be in a position to deliver our clients high data quality at higher rates of effort, with reduced cost.
The challenges of USVs
The long-term plan to operate multiple USVs from a host vessel on a 24/7 basis brings with it a whole host of new challenges. These include the requirements to:
- safely operate and navigate multiple vessels simultaneously
- effectively manage data sets that are much larger than we have managed previously.
Our suppliers Kongsberg, QPS, Caris and Valeport are working closely with the iXblue DriX team to implement a higher degree of automation into the command and control of the vessel navigation and survey systems, and we are very excited with the progress.
The first DriX South Pacific operation
DriX will be used for our first commercial survey in Q4 this year to support the Pacific Regional Navigation Initiative (PRNI) Project, managed by Land Information New Zealand.
This project will deliver much needed modernized nautical charts for the waters in and around Tonga and will provide much safer navigation for all mariners for decades to come.
All the team at iXblue Australia is excited and proud to be involved with this project and can’t wait to introduce DriX into the operations.