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It's all about the data

It's all about the data

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23. August 2017 by Richard Mills
It really is all about the data. I have been working with AUVs for almost a decade now, and the one element that has remained constant in that time is: it is all about the data. We as an industry have tended to concentrate on the name, colour, depth rating and endurance of the marine robotics platforms that we work with. Now we are actually moving that discussion away from the mechanics, and more towards the deliverables.

Our customers, and their clients, tend to focus on area coverage; resolution and how comprehensive the payload sensor suite is. If we take a standard AUV like the HUGIN, it might carry a myriad of sensors such as HISAS synthetic aperture sonar, EM2040 multibeam echosounder, a sub-bottom profiler, colour camera, laser profiler, magnetometer and perhaps a few environmental or geochemical sniffers. All of these sensors can be used at the same time for the duration of the mission.

The result is enormous data volumes. For example, all of the sensors listed above could generate in excess of 100 Gigabytes of data per hour. Over a 48-hour mission that is a lot of data to store, process and evaluate. This has enforced a change in the way we handle data on the vehicle. If we consider the data volume alone, it is obvious that a 1 Gigabit Ethernet cable is no longer sufficient to download the data fast enough between missions in the standard 2 hour turn-around time.

The HUGIN AUV System is now equipped with a removable storage bottle as standard. This can hold 3.2 Terabytes of data on a solid state drive. The storage capacity seems to increase every few months, enabling longer and more comprehensive missions. This only solves part of the problem though. All of that data is still a lot to process after the mission. Over the last couple of years, we have introduced in-mission processing for HISAS imagery. We are also working on other in-mission capabilities to make the data faster to evaluate.

Over the coming months and years we have some new capabilities being developed such as in-mission automated processing for other types of data. This will hopefully include the ability to detect and quantify certain aspects of pipeline inspections like free-spans and burial. Add to this leak detection by highlighting bubbles in the EM2040 water column data and correlating it against the chemical sniffers and the first piece of data retrieved from the AUV will not be a sonar file, but a report of events. This will enable operators to target their first review on areas of interest rather than trawling through the entire dataset manually.

Hopefully this on-board data processing and automated reporting will provide operators with meaningful data faster than ever before. To make the data accessible to everyone required, we can deliver it worldwide, instantaneously via KognifAI.

KognifAI is an open-architecture cloud data service. It is accessible from anywhere in the world and it offers secure data storage and access. It will also be able to run KM processing software like Reflection, along with third party processing tools, making it the one-stop-shop for data.

With all of these developments underway, we can honestly now say the AUV industry is all about the data.

About the author

Richard Mills

Director Subsea Solution Sales, Kongsberg Maritime

Richard has been with Kongsberg Maritime for 5 years, the majority of which has been as the Director of Sales for the Marine Robotics department. He specialises in the commercial application of Marine Robotics technology and is a board member of Eelume.

Prior to joining Kongsberg, Richard held a similar position at International Submarine Engineering Ltd based in British Columbia, Canada. Before joining the subsea world, he was a military helicopter pilot.