Earlier this year, we ran an article about the use of autonomous surface vehicles (ASVs) to conduct marine surveys for submarine cable routes. As that article generated some discussion, we thought we would follow up with a summary of what we know about ASVs and cable route surveys. 

To our knowledge, ASVs have conducted two route surveys for submarine cables.  The first was announced in a joint press release issued by marine survey company Terrasond and ASV Global, a maker of ASVs, in October 2017 as the “first ever USV-supported cable route survey.”  The release noted that the following:

The project was mobilized immediately following a 9,000km nautical charting survey by Terrasond, of which 4,750km (53 percent) was executed by an ASV Global C-Worker 5 autonomous surface vehicle (ASV).  The cable route survey required a new payload including a hull mounted multibeam sonar, a sub-bottom profiler, and a towed sidescan sonar with 250m of armored sonar cable.  The payload swap on the ASV was integrated, calibrated, and demonstrated in the field in less than 48 hours.  A total of 1,220 km of cable route survey lines was then successfully executed by the ASV C-Worker 5 system.  Throughout the operation the C-Worker 5 was remotely monitored using ASV Global’s ASView™ control system from a station on TerraSond’s mother ship. ASView™ used exported .dxf survey lines from the TerraSond survey planning system to autonomously execute an accurate survey with minimal human intervention.

Although the project was not identified in the release, it could have been the Quintillion fiber optic cable system, which would enter service shortly thereafter. 

A second cable route survey also involving Terrasond and ASV Global, although a larger model ASV was used, was for the Vineyard Wind offshore wind farm in Massachusetts.  SCW learned of this project in June 2018 at an offshore wind conference where photos of the ASV conducting the survey were at the Terrasond booth. 

The next indication of an ASV used on a came in the form of a press release from Coda Octopus.  Besides having a great name, Coda Octopus makes the Echoscope4G® Surface real-time 3D sonar.  In the press release, the company said that it had integrated this sonar on an ASV for Chinese technology company AVIC IET for use on an offshore wind farm project to “to survey subsea structures, monopiles, and cables.”  Unlike the two projects mentioned above, this project appears to be a post-installation survey. 

This is the extent of the reporting on ASVs and submarine cables.  Obviously, this is an application that is still in the beginning stages of development.  SCW, however, will continue to track and report on this subject as we learn about new projects involving ASVs.