Tech File: A Resident Eyeball ROV
There's also space in the market for resident observation systems, believe Boxfish Research and Transmark Subsea. The two companies signed a partnership agreement in October 2020 to deliver a fully autonomous resident observation ROV, the ARV-i.
The ARV-i combines underwater vehicle, photography and robotics technology from Boxfish Research and underwater power and communications from Transmark Subsea. The goal is for it to be able to spend up to 12 months per deployment underwater, based out of a subsea docking station with battery charging, with wireless communication of data during dive excursions. Every 12 months, it would be exchanged with a replacement and the original refurbished.
"In resident mode, ARV-i can be fully autonomous with its self-piloting systems taking advantage of the existing Boxfish ROV platform, such as the advanced stability and maneuverability of its eight-thruster design," says Craig Anderson of Boxfish Research. "Additional proprietary artificial intelligence onboard enables the ARV-i to optimize movements within its environment."
Craig says the vehicle has an array of up to six machine vision cameras and one live 4K navigation camera, and it can deliver 17,000 lumens of lighting for high quality observation underwater. The vehicle weighs only 25kg, making deployment and entry to confined spaces easier, while maximizing the power-to-weight ratio and enabling extended excursion time and range. The ARV-I can carry a range of sensors to monitor underwater assets and assist in navigation.
ARV-i can also be manually piloted using live video or via a digital twin of the environment, enabled by high-speed optical and acoustic communications between the dock and the vehicle. Piloting of the ROV away from and back to its offshore dock may be performed from distant, land-based locations.
Marcel Bras of Transmark Subsea, says applications include offshore industries that require underwater observation and inspection, including energy, oil and gas, wind farms and aquaculture.
"In fish-farming, for example, ARV-i is able to observe and monitor the whole environment inside the cage," says Marcel. "On a typical mission in autonomous mode, ARV-i will leave its dock fully-charged and use its onboard processors to detect fish and nets in real-time, allowing it to closely observe the fish while avoiding the nets and other obstacles normally present. During the dive, ARV-i will use its battery of cameras to collect data on the health of the assets including fish biomass, net integrity and water quality.”
"ARV-i will return to its dock for charging via a Transmark Subsea pinless connection, simultaneously sending data to the cloud," says Mark Bokenfohr of Transmark Subsea. Undocking, docking and mission execution is performed without human intervention; ARV-i uses sonar and computer vision for the purposes of asset mapping, following and obstacle avoidance. Under manual operation, detected objects will appear in the pilot’s display of the digital twin, allowing pilots to follow, inspect or avoid them as necessary."
The ARV-i is also available as a tethered solution, adds Craig, in conjunction with a subsea tether management system. Up to 8K / 50MP camera systems are be supported in the ARV-i tethered solution
Boxfish's ARV-i prototype successfully completed trials in May 2021. Sea trials are now underway, with official market release scheduled for October 2021.