Unmanned vehicles making waves

The maritime community descended upon London this week and, once again, the Quill team got on the driverless DLR and made its way to the Excel centre to Oceanology International.

With more than 500 exhibitors, there was plenty on offer from dive suites to vessels docked on the Thames alongside the exhibition centre.

In fact, you could not walk through the exhibition hall without noticing a wave of brightly coloured unmanned vessels.

In the watery world of unmanned robotics there are more than just a few acronyms: unmanned underwater vehicle (UUV), unmanned surface vehicle (USV), remotely operated vehicle (ROV), automated surface vehicle (ASV), unmanned water vehicle (UWV) and unmanned water-vehicle system (UWS). Phew!

Almost as bad as our friends over in the defence industry.

Saab SeaEye was present with an offering for the military and security market. The Sea Wasp is intended for underwater IED detection. We are all familiar with the unmanned ground vehicles (UGV) that are part of bomb disposal teams on the front line and the theory is that you should be able to do the same under the sea.

Many of the unmanned boats were presented with hydrographic surveying in mind but could cross over to maritime security applications when fitted with the correct payloads. UK-based company ASV presented its new C-Worker 5, which for instance could be fitted with and electro-optical camera gor harbour security missions.

Other companies were looking at monitoring illegal fishing with Liquid Robotics offering its green energy powered vessel to the UK to monitor activity around the Pitcairn Islands. (The islands are in the South Pacific and have a population of around 53, according to Wikipedia).

As a spokesperson for the company pointed out, the ocean is a pretty big place and the only reasonable way of monitoring it is to use unmanned technology.

And the reason they are all painted yellow? Well that’s so you can see them easily in the ocean – so obvious when you know.

On a side note there was a company handing out condoms as part of their marketing campaign. Just when you think you have seen it all.

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