Marine Robots

Unmanned Surface Vehicles (USV)

Unmanned surface vehicles (USVs) are autonomous vehicles that transit across the sea surface recording oceanographic data across a range of variables. By remaining on the surface, they can utilise solar, wind or wave power to enhance or completely supply their continuous power needs. In March 2013, the government-backed Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI) launched a competition to develop reliable long-endurance USV. The tendering process was coordinated by the NOC, on behalf of the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL) and Innovate UK. 

As a result, two USV were designed and developed by partners with extensive sea trials conducted in collaboration with NOC.

Built to operate in all marine environments, C-Enduro is driven by a pair of electric outboard legs, powered by a combination of renewable technologies and a diesel generator. A catamaran-design with an efficient self-righting hull, C-Enduro has the largest payload capacity (both physically and electrically) of the NOC USV fleet.

Powered entirely by renewable energy, the wave generated hull motion of the AutoNaut is converted directly and silently, into propulsive thrust. Auxiliary electric propulsion or hybrid drive is available for calm conditions and manoeuvring.  A fuel cell may be fitted to provide additional power for sensors, or increased endurance (<6 months) although for the majority of missions the photo-voltaic panels harvesting solar energy will be sufficient. With a small, compact design, Autonaut is easily deployed from shore or via a small vessel and is capable of travelling up to 500miles in a week.

The Wave Glider is another type of USV devleloped by Liquid Robotics. Using a unique two-part design, the Wave Glider converts the difference between surface to sub-surface wave energy to forward propulsion. Both the surface and sub-surface hulls are fitted sensors to gather information such as water temperature and the atmospheric conditions above, such as wind speed. It is roughly the size of a surf board and is equipped with computers for navigation and a satellite communication system.

Submarine Gliders

Gliders are a type of autonomous underwater vehicle used for measuring oceanographic parameters such as chlorophyll levels, temperature and salinity. Driven by buoyancy and positioned by small movements of their wings, gliders are capable of long-term, long-range deployments. Surfacing to receive missions and transmit data back to the shore via satellite link, gliders are efficient and effective tools for gathering a variety of oceanographic parameters across a range of spatial and temporal scales.

Small vehicles, that can be maneuvered by 2 people, gliders can be deployed from the shore, small vessels or oceanographic research vessels, therefore have a range of applications in the inshore coastal and open ocean environment. The MASSMO glider fleet includes vehicles from two manufacturers: Teledyne Slocum and Kongsberg Seaglider.

Support Vessels

To support the MASSMO exercises, it is useful to work with ships of opportunity also working within the region.

During Mission-1, the Cefas Endeavour a sophisticated, purpose-built ocean-going research vessel was working within the deployment area and provided recovery support to the vehicles. This Cefas Endeavour entered service in April 2003, and undertakes estuarine, shelf seas and deep water oceanographic and fisheries surveys.

The RRS Discovery is designed to support the multidisciplinary research required for the 21st century. The ship is the fourth vessel to bear the name and continues the tradition of oceanographic research at sea. Discovery will deploy and recover the glider used during Mission-3 whilst in the area undertaking another scientific mission.

During Mission-4, we will be working in partnership with NATO's Centre for Maritime Research and Experimentation (CMRE). During the deployment, CMRE will be deploying and recovering vehicles from the research vessel the NRV Alliance.