In this project, the University of Tasmania evaluated the capabilities of optical-based sensors when using an AUV (Autonomous Underwater Vehicle) to dynamically survey large areas and identify specific objects of interest within environments. Based on the performance of the systems and the overall process, recommendations will be made to Defence Science and Technology for using this technique when trying to identify a mine-like object (MLO) underwater.
Wide-area sensors, like sonar, can be used for mine detection, but don’t always offer enough details for the identification stage. Meaning that historically, underwater mine identification has been done by deploying divers or remotely operated vehicles.
Our technology partner, Voyis, develop high-resolution optical systems capable of rendering laser point cloud data and capturing 4k stills images. These provide a complete visual understanding of mine-like objects (MLOs), improving mission lethality, and reducing risk by limiting diver deployments in the minefield.
The Insight Pro laser scanner, the stills camera Observer Pro, and the Nova LED panel were bottom mounted in the University of Tasmania’s ISE Explorer AUV . All data was collected and saved to the onboard storage of the sensors; image data was processed in real-time. The AUV travelled at an altitude between 1.5-15m while the laser and stills system collected data, operating harmoniously to ensure laser and stills data sets of the same targets were collected.
Voyis sensors were easily integrated into the Explorer AUV and generated crisp 4K images. The data collected provided enough details for the easy identification of objects, allowing users to distinguish between mines and similar objects found underwater.
The crisp stills images are enhanced in real time, for complete situational awareness in warfare operations. Images are corrected to remove all aspects of the water medium – colour, lighting, and distortions. The results provide a significant improvement in relation to conventional optical systems typically mounted on AUVs. From now AUVs can potentially be used to build wide area high-resolution maps of the subsea environment.
Just because your expeditionary forces operate small Autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) systems, it doesn’t mean they should not be ambitious as to which payloads to carry. When deploying from a Rhib or other confined spaces, then low-logistic one-person operated instruments are a necessity. This requirement has seen the proliferation of small AUVs. In January of 2022 a number of this units manufactured by OceanScan-MST were delivered to Denmark’s Frederikshavn naval base. Though the AUVs are small, their payload requirements weren’t.
The customer wanted to equip these AUVs with the latest generation of 4K digital stills cameras and 3D lasers. Fitting the equipment to an AUV already packed with sonar payloads and other navigation instruments is challenging. Fortunately our technology partner Voyis and their next generation optical systems were at hand. They had to work closely with OceanScan-MST to understand the constrains and develop the right mechanical design to integrate the popular Recon LS System.
The solution was to develop an OEM version of the Recon LS where each of the components was delivered and carefully integrated to the AUV. The integration to the platform is of paramount importance as the product has been very carefully designed to optimally illuminate the scene.
The Light Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (LAUV) supplied by OceanScan-MST were equipped with an identification capability enabling each of the AUVs to search for contacts with the combined sonar and laser pair and enabling re-acquisition with the same AUV. This means improved probability of detections, increased area-coverage-rates and mission tempo and imaging with an amazing fidelity to support other missions beyond mine countermeasures.
If you would like to know how Forcys and its technology partners can support your expeditionary needs please do not hesitate to get in touch.