Undersea inspection missions led by divers or ROVs inevitably bring challenges such as low visibility, poor navigational accuracy, low-quality imaging, human operator limitations and safety concerns which add up to incomplete or inaccurate data coverage.
Despite this, inspection is a necessary part of undersea business. Ship hulls must undergo regular inspections to meet regulatory requirements and delay costly dry docking. Submerged structures need to be regularly inspected to monitor deteriorations or to collect data verifying proper operation.
Bluefin’s Hovering Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (HAUV) constitutes the back bone of Bluefin’s Inspection Systems business. The vehicle was originally developed for the U.S. Navy to search hulls for IEDs and mines. The HAUV transitioned from an Office of Naval Research (ONR) R&D project to a Program of Record with the US Navy (Explosive Ordnance Disposal Hull Unmanned Underwater Vehicle Localization System – EOD HULS) under the MK19 designation. To date, Bluefin has delivered five MK19 systems (10 vehicles) to PMS EOD with another four vehicles scheduled for 2016.
With the support of ONR, Bluefin is now working on the logical follow-up to mine detection: mine neutralization using manipulators mounted in the HAUV.
In addition to the detection of IEDs and mines on ship hulls, the vehicle and capabilities developed for EOD can be customized to respond to commercial and oil and gas needs.
The most direct application of the existing system is UWILD (Underwater Inspection In-Lieu of Dry-docking) that allows ship hulls to be inspected while still in the water, thereby eliminating the high cost of dry-docking. To qualify as a replacement to dry docking, the inspection systems must provide data of sufficient quality. Bluefin’s HAUV provides:
- Real-time data to the surface through a fiber optic tether
- Autonomous operations with the ability to take manual control if needed
- High-quality sonar data in all visibility conditions or video data in clear water
- Full coverage inspection resulting in complete hull mosaic without gaps
- Hull plate thickness map
Inspecting ship hulls is manpower intensive, time consuming and dangerous, yet divers must routinely perform this task for husbandry purposes. Bluefin’s HAUV can make this process easier, safer and more effective.
In collaboration with ONR, Bluefin is looking at variations of the HAUV design for the removal of slime on ship hulls in order to improve fuel efficiency and reduce operational costs.
Inspection of Confined Spaces
Bluefin is currently working on a custom version of the HAUV that allows inspection of confined spaces filled with water or hazardous liquids. The applications include floor thickness measurements in aboveground storage tanks filled with petroleum products, leak detection in oil and gas platform legs, and monitoring of underground potable water storage tanks.
The inspection of a dam’s face is a straightforward application for a system capable of inspecting a ship hull.
Oil and Gas Resident System
On a slightly longer term and with modifications to increase the vehicle’s depth rating, the HAUV has high potential as a resident inspection system in an oil and gas field.
In low underwater current environments, the battery-powered HAUV provides the navigation and control capabilities needed for many inspection tasks.
For operations in stronger currents, Bluefin is currently investigating the integration of the HAUV autonomy, control and navigation into a commercial ROV.
Applicable vehicles & technology
There’s no longer a need to rely on guesswork for undersea inspection. The autonomy, sensors and on-board data processing incorporated into Bluefin’s HAUV provide high quality data to meet your inspection needs. Contact us today for more information.