Autonomous hull-cleaning system delivered for US Navy testing

Posted on 31 January 2013

The HullBUG autonomous underwater vehicle is delivered for field testing in Florida.

The HullBUG autonomous underwater vehicle is delivered for field testing in Florida.

SeaRobotics Corp has delivered the first HullBUG (Hull Bio-inspired Underwater Grooming) system to the Center for Corrosion and Biofouling Control at the Florida Institute of Technology in Melbourne for US Navy testing. This is in support of the institute’s newly commissioned Large-Scale Seawater Facility for HullBUG Development funded by the US Navy Office of Naval Research (ONR).

The HullBUG system is an autonomous underwater vehicle designed to crawl on ship hulls or other underwater structures and “proactively groom” the surface. Developed by SeaRobotics and funded by ONR, this highly automated proactive grooming (or light cleaning) process aims to revolutionize hull maintenance, allowing ship hulls to remain in a clean state at all times. The benefits of improved hull condition are expected to be significant, with an estimated 5% improvement in fuel efficiency achieved through proactive grooming translating into a savings of $15 billion per year for the shipping industry worldwide, as well as reduction in the 1 billion tons of greenhouse gases emitted by the fleet.

“The financial benefits to the commercial shipping industry of HullBUG-enabled proactive grooming are enormous. Equally impressive are the associated environmental benefits derived from the operations with improved hull efficiency,” SeaRobotics president Don Darling said.

HullBUG is a small autonomous vehicle weighing 30-40 kg that attaches to the hull and performs a gentle cleaning function, or grooming. Numerous embedded computers perform navigation and sensing tasks to allow the grooming of the majority of the ship hull. Its ability to be attached to ferrous, non-ferrous and fiber-glass hulls and to deploy various sensors allows the system to overcome challenges in inspection and grooming. Opportunities in commercial shipping, oil and gas, nuclear, and conventional power generation markets are under discussion.

SeaRobotics specializes in small, smart vehicles that are remotely or autonomously operated. Its clients include major military and commercial organizations. Its marine survey software interfaces with most data acquisition hardware, software and sensing systems to produce multi-spectral, DGPS-stamped data for survey, research or surveillance efforts. Applications for SeaRobotics vehicles range from hull grooming and inspection to bathymetric and hydrographic surveys to coastal, harbor and riverine surveillance.  Many SeaRobotics vehicles are small, modular and man-portable, allowing for rapid deployment in remote areas.

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