Automated surface vessel targets offshore IMR and survey work
RC Dock, a Netherlands-based specialist in marine robotics, has delivered its first fully classed offshore uncrewed surface vessel (USV) designed for inspection, maintenance, repair (IMR) and survey operations
The 12-m catamaran “represents a new era in offshore marine automation, delivering unparalleled efficiency, safety and sustainability.”
“At 25 tonnes, we’ve successfully created Europe’s largest commercial, class-certified USV, providing a stable and safe platform for offshore windfarm inspections and multi-sensor deployment with a 5-tonne payload capacity. This vessel represents more than just a product; it’s a trial-tested solution that advances offshore capabilities while significantly reducing costs and environmental impact,” said RC Dock founder Ronald Kraft.
The USV features a twin-hull design and an advanced system for managing sensor launch, recovery and towing, specifically for remotely operated towed vehicle (ROTV) operations.
RC Dock said the USV has been tested in harsh North Sea conditions during winter 2022-2023, demonstrating 90% less CO2 emissions than conventional offshore vessels. Class society RINA confirmed class-approval of RC Dock’s remotely controlled uncrewed workboats to operate up to 200 nautical miles from shore.
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The vessel’s hull design enables low-cost mobilisation with the hulls designed to fit within standard shipping containers.
The USV can host inspection and work-class remotely operated vehicles, which enables real-time, over-the-horizon remote-operated underwater inspections and repair work, broadening the vessel’s utility in maritime operations.
The vessel’s advanced system for managing the launch, recovery, and towing of sensors, specifically for ROTV operations, adds another layer of capability and control. This system allows for precise deployment and management of towed sensors, providing more reliable, low-cost data collection.
Surface and subsea imagery sensors facilitate detailed monitoring of marine assets while integration with AI-supported classification and 3D image technology allows the vessel to accurately identify and model above- and underwater objects.
Finally, RC Dock said the USV is powered by a combination of 100% biofuel and hybrid propulsion, allowing the vessel to complete carbon-neutral operations for more than 30 days, with a 10-knot transit speed and a 7-knot survey speed.
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Mr Kraft said a master and qualified watchkeepers monitor the USV 24/7 from a control centre onshore. “Even by deploying different autonomous functions to the vessel control systems, such as collision avoidance and AI-supported image recognition and avoidance functionalities, RC Dock emphasises the importance of keeping 24/7 human operators in the loop. This approach increases safety assurance towards our customers, especially when operating in traffic-congested areas and during complex offshore projects.”
“Rather than removing the crew, we’re relocating them onshore where they can perform their tasks without risking the open seas for monotonous inspection duties," he added.
Following trials, the first RC Dock offshore-classed uncrewed USV was built for Middle East-based Sovereign Global Solutions. Additional units are on order and planned for delivery later this year while a larger 23-m sister USV is set to debut in 2024.