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Robotic sentinels patrol Plymouth Sound

Ship & Boat International eNews: May/June 2021

pml (WEB 250x200)


Plymouth Marine Laboratory (PML) has added an engine-free AutoNaut USV to its fleet, enabling the institution to undertake unmanned scientific missions in and around Plymouth Sound, off the south-east coast of England.


Dubbed PML Pioneer, the 5m-long bot is propelled by wave energy, captured via wave-foil technology, while a combination of 300W solar panels and batteries power its scientific sensors and communications system. In addition to its array of sensors, PML Pioneer is equipped with HD cameras on its mast and hull.


 As well as avoiding the use of carbon fuel, the USV can “independently survey at sea for many weeks at a time”, AutoNaut says. The USV will operate alongside PML’s existing research vessels: the 21.5m, 12-passenger Plymouth Quest; and the 6.8m PML Explorer, a six-person RIB.


Additionally, PML has acquired four integrated AUVs manufactured by UK firm ecoSUB Robotics. These subsurface drones can communicate with each other and with the AutoNaut on the surface – which, in turn, communicates terrestrially with the staff at PML.


The drones have been ordered as part of the Smart Sound Plymouth initiative which seeks, among other goals, to demonstrate the potential for fuel-free, net-zero marine observational systems.