World’s First Long-range Autonomous Marine Research Vessel Unveiled
Nolan Beilstein Jun 10, 2022
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Plymouth Marine Laboratory (PML) unveiled designs for Oceanus, a long-range autonomous research vessel that PML is saying would be the world’s first. The plan is for this vessel to assist in advanced international marine research and achieve net-zero oceanography.
While most current oceanographic sampling is performed by either moored data buoys, smaller autonomous devices or fully-manned research trips, the 77-foot-long and 11.5-foot-wide Oceanus is fully unmanned.
This lightweight, monohull vessel was designed to make transatlantic sampling voyages from the United Kingdom to the Falklands. It possesses self-righting capabilities and will be propelled by two pod drive motors.
A battery bank will power the motors and a variety of electronic components on board, such as running lights, cameras, sensors, a multi-beam sonar, and a depth-sensing system.
It will carry monitoring sensors to collect data in areas including biodiversity, climate change, biogeochemistry, and fisheries. The vessel will also utilize AI technology with real-time weather forecasts and marine data feeds to navigate optimal courses.
Oceanus will use solar panels on the deck and onboard micro-energy generation devices. While it will feature a diesel engine, the lack of humans and living facilities will reduce fuel consumption.
Chief Executive of Plymouth Marine Laboratory Icarus Allen described Oceanus as “a hugely exciting venture, with the capacity to revolutionize the way we carry out marine research expeditions and support the drive towards net zero. Not that long ago, this would have been the stuff of science fiction fantasy.”
PML did not disclose when construction would begin or be finished as well as when Oceanus would embark on its first voyage.