What is an
autonomous surface vessel (ASV)?
What is an autonomous surface vessel (ASV)?
Autonomous surface vessels, or ASVs, are autonomous vessels providing a range of functions in the open ocean without an onboard crew. With autonomous surface vessels being smaller than crewed vessels, and operated from the shore or from a nearby crewed vessel, autonomous surface vessels offer a cost effective means of covering a maximum geographical area, as well as secondary benefits such as risk reduction through deploying fewer personnel out at sea.
ASVs for distributed maritime operations
From climate change to border control and counter human-trafficking, the maritime sector has never faced so many challenges from so many different places. For this reason, autonomous surface vessels provide a scalable answer to many of the sector’s biggest challenges, offering a range of monitoring solutions, whether for the purposes of oceanography, national security, marine life and marine protected areas, or to increase surveillance of offshore infrastructure.
Customers benefit from 30% capital cost reduction, 50% operational cost reduction vs current crewed diesel vessel approach. Autonomous surface vessels, much like manned vessels, can come equipped with hi-fi cameras to produce video content for use in monitoring or judicial purposes.
Levels of autonomy in autonomous surface vessels
According to Lloyd's Register Cyber Enabled Ships levels of autonomy for ASVs can be categorised as:
0) Manual: No autonomous function. All action and decision-making performed manually
1) On-board Decision Support: All actions taken by human Operator, but decision support tool can present options or otherwise influence the actions chosen. Data is provided by systems on board.
2) On &Off-board Decision Support: All actions taken by human Operator, but decision support tool can present options or otherwise influence the actions chosen. Data may be provided by systems on or off-board.
3) ‘Active’ Human in the loop: Decisions and actions are performed with human supervision. Data may be provided by systems on or off-board.
4) Human on the loop, Operator/ Supervisory: Decisions and actions are performed autonomously with human supervision. High impact decisions are implemented in a way to give human Operators the opportunity to intercede and over-ride.
5) Fully autonomous: Rarely supervised operation where decisions are entirely made and actioned by the system.
6) Fully autonomous: Unsupervised operation where decisions are entirely made and actioned by the system during the mission. A higher Autonomous Level (AL) system may use a lower AL system as part of its reversionary control and a complex system may be a combination of multiple systems at different levels.
Zero emission autonomous surface vessels
There is a need for autonomous surface vessels to avoid producing carbon emissions, not least due to their increasingly popular use as climate monitoring vessels. ACUA Ocean, a British maritime cleantech startup, is developing the world’s first long endurance autonomous surface vessel powered by liquid hydrogen (H-USV). Their USVs will release no carbon emissions and will become the first purpose-built USV to operate using only hydrogen fuel.
Groups of autonomous individual vessels
Autonomous surface vessels can be made to operate as a swarm in order to increase reliability and the scope of data. In a sensor network, individual vessels behave as an intersection or ‘node’, able to communicate with other vessels in the swarm, thus providing highly reliable data from a range of locations. In the absence of an onboard crew, autonomous surface vessels are operated by humans either from another, manned vessel, or from land, essentially allowing more time to be spent tracking and intellectualising data trends, instead of manpower and energy being spent solely on data collection.