“The Freedom AUV is a new fresh approach to autonomous underwater vehicles. We're combining the benefits and features of an ROV [remotely operated vehicle] into an AUV system,” Casey Glenn, electrical engineering lead at Oceaneering, said.
Oceaneering’s Freedom AUV is the next step in a series of developments the company has been making toward autonomous vehicles operating under the sea.
Glenn said Freedom is able to collect many types of data, including “still images with high resolution and high dynamic range, laser imagery and multibeam imaging sonar.” It has a laser imaging system that projects a laser beam onto the seabed, enabling cameras to capture a contour map.
The AUV can be equipped with hydrophones, magnetometers
“Our vehicle is a platform for our client to come up and say, ‘Hey, can you sense this? Can you detect this while you fly this pipeline? Or can you fly around here and
Freedom can travel as fast as
“We've got thrusters all around the vehicle, enough thrusters to do vertical motion, to stop and pivot or to turn,” Glenn said. “We actually have two obstacle avoidance sonars
The autonomous nature of Freedom makes it seem as if it has a mind of its own, which is exactly what Oceaneering was aiming for.
“Traditional autonomous underwater vehicles, they're really a vehicle executing a set of instructions planned from the surface, whereas Freedom is taking that autonomy to another level,” said Nick Rouge, Oceaneering’s subsea robotics product manager
Despite Freedom being able to react on its own,
Even though the autonomous capabilities of Freedom were tailor-made for the vehicle, the behaviors aren’t fundamentally limited to Freedom, as the same behaviors could be put into a work-class ROV. This level of compatibility was only able to be developed due to the experience Oceaneering had with previous subsea robotics systems.
“We developed this in Freedom in part because we, at the time, had the most total miles of pipeline survey executed with traditional AUVs,” Rouge said. “We had a lot of history with problems experienced with those system designs, their limitations, what we liked and what we didn't like. We had contributed a lot of feedback and field experience into the development of their control systems… so I think it's that track record that really showed us what we needed to do.”
“Traditional autonomous underwater vehicles, they're really a vehicle executing a set of instructions planned from the surface, whereas Freedom is taking that autonomy to another level. It actually reacts to what it finds in its environment and initiates and adapts its behaviors.” — Nick Rouge, Oceaneering
“So this autonomy and the capabilities of Freedom, they're going to enable us to open up underwater behaviors that look like modern aerial drone inspections where you issue an instruction, the vehicle goes and does its work, then it returns to home base, and you no longer need continuous monitoring of the vehicle from a vessel,” Rouge said. “You no longer need an expensive diesel-burning, CO
With only one Freedom AUV currently
This is only the beginning, as Oceaneering is already working to have another vehicle out by 2024. This new vehicle might even have a different shape than the current Freedom, as Oceaneering looks to optimize the technology for different tasks, as they’re “never going to be done with testing phases,” Rouge said.
The team is always looking to develop and test new features and behaviors and prove out more autonomy to a high degree of confidence.
When talking about the impact that Freedom could have on the future of subsea, Rouge said
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