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Utility Navigation

Development of an Under-Ice Ecosystem Observation Capability Using Autonomous Underwater Vehicle Technology

December 16, 2020

The NOAA Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory will deploy an automonous underwater vechicle (AUV) in phases, each allowing increased autonomy and increased observations, culminating with the development of an under-ice docking station. The deployment of the Saab Sabertooth AUV will be operated in collaboration with Hibbard Inshore. Phase I testing of the AUV is planned for the summer of 2021, at NOAA GLERL’s Lake Michigan Field Station. The field station offers an ideal testing ground, with easy access to the Port of Muskegon. The Phase I demonstration will verify procedures, setup and navigation. The initial test will include multibeam sonar and video high-resolution imagery. Multibeam sonar will deliver both imaging and survey capabilities providing object detection, navigation and high density lake bed classification. The 1080P high definition video allows mapping of invasive Quagga mussels. All the collected data will be transferred to the GLERL Real-time Coastal Observations Network (ReCON).  Funding and logistic support provided by the NOAA Office of Marine and Aviation Operations (OMAO) Uncrewed Systems Operation Center. Phase II will occur during the early winter season and include the addition of a scientific echosounder for fish observation and classification. In the final stage of the project, Phase III, the AUV will be outfitted with an ice profiling sonar system in order to collect data regarding ice thickness and conditions. Phase III will also include the development of a docking station, equipped high-bandwidth data transfer. 

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