USV Conducts Unprecedented Fisheries Research Survey at US Offshore Wind Sites

USV performs ‘first-of-its-kind’ fisheries research survey at US offshore wind sites

The DriX Unmanned Surface Vessel (USV) recently conducted a comprehensive survey in offshore areas spanning Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and New York on behalf of NOAA Fisheries Northeast Fisheries Research Science Center (NEFSC). This endeavor was a collaborative effort involving NOAA USxOC, along with Kongsberg and Nortek.

Equipped with advanced technology including a SeapiX-R 3D high-resolution multibeam echosounder from Exail, two Kongsberg EK80 single-beam echosounders, and a Nortek ADCP, the vessel embarked on a mission to gather crucial data pertaining to oceanic conditions, marine biodiversity, and seafloor characteristics within operational and prospective offshore wind farm zones. Various scientific sensors such as sonars and echosounders were employed for this purpose.

The primary objective of the operations was to facilitate the collection of information essential for assessing the impact of offshore turbine installations on the environment. By surveying areas designated for turbine placement both before and after construction, NOAA aimed to analyze and compare environmental changes.

USV Conducts Unprecedented Fisheries Research Survey at US Offshore Wind Sites
USV Conducts Unprecedented Fisheries Research Survey at US Offshore Wind Sites (Credits: Sea Foods Source)

Operating in a supervised autonomous mode, the DriX USV covered over 5,000 kilometers of navigation lines with precision, maintaining a distance of 20 meters from wind farm monopiles while avoiding obstacles such as ships, fishing nets, and buoys.

Data collected by the USV was transmitted to designated remote operation centers established at the University of Rhode Island’s Inner Space Center in Narragansett, Rhode Island, and Exail’s Maritime Autonomy hub in La Ciotat, France.

Expressing gratitude to NOAA Fisheries Northeast Fisheries Research Science Center for their confidence in Exail’s USV and sensor technologies, Shayan Haque, Business Development Manager at Exail, emphasized the company’s commitment to delivering highly accurate scientific data ranging from biomass detection to detailed bathymetric measurements.

Exail highlighted close collaboration with the U.S. Coast Guard Sector Southeast New England, wind farm developers, and local mariners to ensure the safe and efficient autonomous operation of the system within busy navigation channels and complex construction zones.

Remarkably, the DriX USV accomplished its mission with minimal environmental impact, boasting a significant 90% reduction in CO2 emissions compared to conventional survey vessels.

Developed by iXblue and ECA Group under the Exail joint brand established in late 2022, the DriX USV has garnered Bureau Veritas Approval in Principle (AiP) and Lloyd’s Register certification, attesting to its reliability and adherence to stringent standards.

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