Uncrewed survey platforms have restrictions in payload and power supply, meaning that small multi-purpose sensors are required to support such applications. These features became paramount during a collaboration between Nortek and Ultrabeam Hydrographic, a leader in the marine survey industry.
Ultrabeam Hydrographic is a high-resolution 3D marine surveying firm, based in Cornwall, UK. In late 2020, Ultrabeam was awarded one of five contracts as part of an initiative called “Map the Gap”, which is a project funded by the Ministry of Defence through the Defence and Security Accelerator (DASA). This project tasked successful applicants with developing prototype semi-autonomous amphibious vehicles for the British Army that could help troops to advance safely and securely across bodies of water.
Mounting sensors on a USV to survey river crossings
Ultrabeam developed a prototype 450 kg eight-wheeled vehicle, known as the Argonaut. The USV was equipped with a range of sensors including multibeam echosounders and lasers to map the riverbed and land surface features while the vehicle transits bank-to-bank across the river. These are measurements that the company carries out regularly as part of its high-resolution asset surveys, but not usually in such a demanding application.
Using an ADCP on a USV to measure speed and direction of river currents
To obtain a complete characterization of the environment, the Argonaut needed to accurately measure the speed and direction of river currents using an ADCP, and for that it turned to Nortek.
“Five years ago, we had to use larger ADCP units. Since then, Nortek has produced very compact, very portable, high-accuracy systems which do exactly the same job,” says Gabriel Walton, Ultrabeam Hydrographic’s Technical Director.
“Weight, form factor and a simple software interface are key for this kind of project with an unmanned vehicle. So, Nortek was our first choice,” he adds.