marine facilities, such as platforms for work and housing, wind power plants
and piers, may in the future be inspected by the Seacat drone. The autonomous
system with remote control has been developed by Chalmers' infrastructure Revere, where researcher Ola Benderius works.
“We work with
Seacat in the same way as we have done for many years with cars and trucks. We
plan to be able to add more new functions to the vehicle via the internet, and
completely avoid manual steps”, he says.
Need for inspections below surface
infrastructure of national interest, such as large ports, outlets at nuclear
power plants or large cables for communication, must be inspected at least
every six years in accordance with requirements from the Swedish Transport
Administration. Inspections must be made at so-called “hand close distance”.
This means, for example, that quay sides and their foundations must be visually
and manually inspected, square meter by square meter.
drones, it is relatively easy to inspect the land side and, to some extent, the
side of the quay side. But the process is all the more difficult near water
surface, and on parts standing on the seabed. Researchers in the Seacat project
now want to facilitate inspections by developing a drone with sensors both
above and below surface. In addition, the drone needs to be easy to maneuver
and adapted for the port operator.
Seacat can inspect will probably depend on which multi-beam you use. But I
think that Seacat above all has its strength where the water is too shallow, or
the space is too narrow for inspections using ships. When the water is shallow,
inspections also takes longer, as sweeps with the multi-beams are not so wide”,
says Ola Benderius.
regular inspections of quay sides will increase the possibility of quickly
detecting wear, objects on the seabed and other deviations. The researchers
believe that even older data can be valuable in order to analyze and trace
damage back in time.
Growing need for drones at sea
transition to a sustainable society entails more use of marine resources. Fish
and mussel farms, marine energy plants and other types of anchored
infrastructure will increase in number. This in turn will increase the need for
regular inspections, all year round.
Rylander is a technical expert at RISE, with a background in advanced marine
observations. He is also part of heading development of the Seacat craft.
system that operates in a Nordic climate must be able to function all year
round, and even with some ice formation. There is no supplier of autonomous
surface drones with this capacity on the market today.”
project has already come a long way. The project group showed that Seacat was
able to handle autonomous maneuvering during a demonstration back in 2019.
“To be able
to carry out inspections and also certain measures from a safe place ashore,
during most days of the year, is of great benefit to society. It is an
important step for a cost-effective management of various types of marine
facilities”, says Torsten Linders, initiator and coordinator at the Swedish
Center for Ocean Observing Technology (SCOOT), which is led by the University
Developing new collaborations
December, the Seacat project received funding from Vinnova to continue development
of the drone. In the new phase, more parties have joined the project, including
the Port of Gothenburg and Floatel International. Torsten Linders is satisfied:
exactly what SCOOT does. We connect stakeholders from academia and research
institutes with industry, to accelerate the development of marine data
collection. By taking advantage of each other’s resources, we reach much
further than we would individually”, he says.
Chalmers’ side, work is now continuing on automated launch of functions and
updates in software, as well as automated flow of data, from sensors above and
below water to a cloud based solution.
work towards productification and so-called digital twins. We will specify the
whole system in a, what I call, cyberphysical model. The model then forms the
basis for the initial generation of software, future software changes, and the
digital twin who resides in a simulated environment”, says Ola Benderius.
Holmkvist, University of Gothenburg, and Mia Malmstedt, Chalmers