Data-gathering USVs benefit from electric drives

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Ireland-based underwater data acquisition specialist XOcean is pushing for emissions-free operation of its fleet of unmanned surface vessels (USV). To achieve this, its XO-450 USV, composite-hulled, wave-piercing catamaran is now powered by a pair of Torqeedo Cruise 2.0 electric pod drives, with a Power 24-3500 lithium-ion battery and a lightweight micro-generator. Additionally, solar panels on deck provide efficient recharging during daylight hours.

The two electric thrusters are independently controlled to provide steering control. An additional pair of Torqeedo Ultralight outboards at the bows enhance the vessel’s station-keeping abilities when gathering data.

The boat’s operating range is 1,500 nautical miles, providing up to 18 days of mission endurance running 24/7. The company currently has eight of the XO-450 USVs in service with four more vessels under construction to be added to the fleet this year.

A recent deployment by the company highlighted the usefulness of the electric drive. An XO-450 USV completed a live seabed-to-shore data harvesting mission from an array of Sonardyne pressure monitoring transponders at the Ormen Lange natural gas field off the coast of Norway.

The vessel’s 30 sensors measured and recorded pressure, temperature and inclination data at the seafloor at a depth of 800m to 1,100m. The USV transited more than 160 nautical miles from Kristiansund out to the Ormen Lange field, spent 12 hours on station retrieving data from the sensors using an acoustic array and completed the return trip to Kristiansund in a total of just over three days.

The extremely low noise signature of the electric drives was an essential element in the success of the mission, which used an acoustic transceiver to retrieve data wirelessly through the water, XOcean said.

“Sustainability is a central value for us,” said XOcean CEO James Ives. “Our USVs have a negligible carbon footprint, only producing about one-thousandth of the emissions of a conventional survey vessel. We are also employing offsets for all carbon produced in the delivery of our projects resulting in fully carbon-neutral survey data for our customers.”

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