Coastal data democracy with uncrewed vessels

Bergen-based startup, Nordic USV, is on a mission to find new ways of monitoring the coast, aiming to eliminate barriers and open opportunities to ensure that ocean data and knowledge is accessible to all coastline stakeholders.

The company wants to do this by automating services and making them easy to use, connecting customers directly to a physical infrastructure through their web browser to eliminate unnecessary intermediaries, significantly reduce costs and decrease the time it takes to complete a survey mission.

Sander Henriksen founded Nordic USV in 2020 after realising how expensive it was to conduct simple surveys along the Norwegian coast. The mobilisation of personnel and equipment plus the charter and/or transport of a vessel to the location meant that costs mounted up fast, even just to take basic water samples a few kilometres offshore.

Sander knew that remotely controlled vessels could potentially handle this kind of work more efficiently. After an initial foray into building his own vessel, Sander shifted Nordic USV’s focus towards a more operational business model, developing infrastructure with docking facilities and software solutions aimed at reducing planning time and streamlining the survey booking process.

Background & objectives

Focusing mainly on UN Sustainable Development Goal 14, ‘Life below water’, Nordic USV set out to offer a turnkey, self-service solution providing cost-effective and high-quality coastal data for better informed decision making.

The company’s vision is to build a coastal data infrastructure, using self-charging uncrewed surface vessels (USVs) as monitoring platforms, to democratise and make coastal data accessible to the wider scientific and coastal management communities.

Environmental challenges

As the industry strives to reach net zero emissions targets, low carbon alternatives to traditional marine data collection methods (i.e. crewed vessels) are needed to complete these critical tasks.

Ensuring a constant flow of data in all weather and sea states is another challenging factor, for which the use of USVs is an already proven solution in many other offshore sectors.

The fjords of Norway are also notoriously deep, with many deeper than the adjacent sea. Gathering data at depth requires innovative onboard technology to deploy marine sensors and equipment down far enough for comprehensive measurements.

Technology solution

Exeter-based HydroSurv, an innovator in uncrewed vessel technology, provided Nordic USV with a 100% electric, REAV-28 multi-purpose USV in November 2023. ‘USV Nordy’ was a modified build specifically for Nordic’s use case, with a CTD (conductivity, temperature, depth) cast winch system from OSIL onboard. The OSIL micro-profiling winch enabled effective profiling at depths of up to 500 metres, a first for OSIL’s technology.

Nordic USV operates the vessel from a Remote Operations Centre (ROC). The USV is remotely deployed and recovered from Nordic’s own docking stations, ensuring seamless integration and deployment for efficient, reliable operations.

‘USV Nordy’ has a Dynautics vessel control system, including a mission planning application integrated with S57 electronic navigation charts. The REAV-28 is also fitted with a Starlink communications system, providing a high-bandwidth satellite connection.

Nordic USV’s proprietary survey planning portal enables users to plan surveys in detail, receive quotes immediately and receive requested data in their browser. Task planning and pricing is automated, allowing the user to requisition precise data quickly and efficiently, whilst minimising miscommunication.

Customer missions were held front and foremost in developing this online planning portal, enabling users to share the information they require through an interactive, visual interface. Colleagues can be invited for easier data sharing and the platform undergoes constant development based on customer feedback.

Results & outlook

To date, Nordic USV and HydroSurv have together demonstrated the capability to remotely dock and initiate charging for a USV throughout the winter in Norway. The concept has been optimised and is now proven in the field and actively fulfilling commercial missions.

Nordic USV is currently piloting this solution for CTD survey work in Norway but has ambitious plans to significantly scale the solution by leasing multiple USVs from HydroSurv to be stationed along the coast. Multiple, self-charging docking stations would see the USV fleet operating on demand, even in demanding weather conditions, to provide a data-as-a-service solution for hydrographic, oceanographic and environmental surveys.

About HydroSurv

HydroSurv is a global innovator in Uncrewed Surface Vehicles (USVs) that democratise marine geospatial data for the ocean industries. With a range of electric and hybrid USVs from 1.6 – 5.7m for inland, nearshore and offshore operations, HydroSurv delivers a blended offering of USV platform sales, leasing and design engineering.

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