New prototype for seabed mapping

Date 06/05/14

Unmanned Surface Vehicles can reduce the time it takes to map the seabed


Autonomous : The Unmanned Surface Vehicle (USV) from Maritime Robotics has for some period been tested in the Trondheimsfjord in Norway. Now, it is also equipped with multi sonar from Norbit to map the seabed . The unmanned boat is approximately 6 meters long and weighs 1.700 kg. (Photo: Maritime Robotics/ Andreas Misje)

Promising test for new Norwegian Unmanned Surface Vehicle (USV)

It is the Trondheim company Maritime Robotics that is behind the new concept. Plans call for the vessel and the technology to be ready for the commercial market next year.

Tests in the Trondheimsfjord

Maritime Robotics has been working for several years to develop the autonomous vessel. Now a prototype for seabed mapping has been tested. The development of the vessel and the concept of using sensors to survey the seabed, was initially supported by the technology cluster Norwegian Centres of Expertise Instrumentation (NCEI). This is a high-technology cluster for companies working on instrumentation based in Trondheim, Norway.

The biggest challenge in the project was to verify whether it was possible to map the seabed with such a small vessel. The vehicle is under six meters long and weighs 1700 kg, and it was feared that it could be overly sensitive to wind and wave conditions during data collection. The test showed that excellent data quality was acquired, and that a significant potential lies in mapping of the shallow water areas.

Tests are very promising

Norbit has developed a new small and compact multi beam sonar that requires very little manual adjustments and monitoring along the way, and thus fits very well into an Unmanned Surface Vehicle. Maritime Robotics has patented a system for formation control that can guide and control multiple vessels to cover an area of ​​the sea in an effective manner. Seabed mapping with  seabed monitoring sensors mounted on the vehicle can thus be much faster than today´s conventional mapping, where a ship will sail in a “lawnmower pattern” in slow speed. In this way it is possible to multiply the collected amount of data per unit time. The project was also well received when it was presented during the trade fair Oceanology International 2014 in London.

Seabed mapping

Seabed mapping is important as to measure the depths and get accurate information about the seafloor, and hence the growing conditions for plants and marine animals, about geological conditions, and for maritime charts used in navigation at sea.

Link to the Norwegian article on