VESSEL REVIEW | Aker BioMarine USV to support Antarctica krill fishing activities
Maritime Robotics

VESSEL REVIEW | Aker BioMarine USV to support Antarctica krill fishing activities

Norwegian krill harvesting company Aker BioMarine has taken delivery of a new unmanned surface vehicle (USV) to support its operations in Antarctica.

Built by local unmanned systems specialist Maritime Robotics, the 5.95- by 2.05-metre, 1,900kg craft is equipped with a range of sensor integrations and will be used both in the search for krill and to gather data for research and population mapping. By the end of this year, the drone will be stationed in Antarctica.

The USV is made of polyethelene and offers a stable, unsinkable, and near maintenance-free construction. The craft can also fit into a standard 20-foot container for easy deployment.

A maximum speed of 25 knots can be reached while the craft's operations can be monitored from up to 30 kilometres away from a shore station via marine broadband radio. When cruising at a survey speed of five knots, the USV can stay out at sea for 50 hours.

Specifically, the USV will assist Aker BioMarine's fishing vessels in navigating more efficiently by concentrating on areas where krill are abundant. This will then allow the company's fleet to consume less fuel and therefore reduce its CO2 emissions.

<em>Photo: Aker BioMarine</em>
Photo: Aker BioMarine

The craft was built to withstand extreme conditions in Antarctica. Operations will still be possible even in harsh weather and over long distances thanks to the installation of sensors that include a Furuno radar.

Eirik Moholt, USV class product owner with Maritime Robotics, said the craft was adapted to suit Aker BioMarine's requirements through the incorporation of functions such as advanced alerts, defrosting, and situational understanding systems. It also has twice the operating time as a standard USV from the same series. All control systems, security systems, and maintenance routines are adapted for unmanned operations.

The craft will be part of Aker BioMarine's data-driven search for krill. Information such as weather data and satellite images will provide the crew aboard the company's fishing vessels with indications of where krill might be found. Based on this information, the USV will be sent out to confirm that there is krill at a potential site. If the USV confirms the presence of krill at a site, the fishing vessels will then be deployed there.

Webjørn Barstad, EVP Offshore Supply Chain at Aker BioMarine, said that the USV will be available for year-round operations. Compared to the standard average of 60 search days in a year as had been the case since 2020, the USV will provide its operators with an overview of a considerably larger search area. This will give Aker BioMarine the opportunity to make more strategic choices of fishing areas, which will in turn reduce the number of search days.

6-metre Unmanned Surface Vessel
Type of vessel:USV – Fish finding
Owner:Aker BioMarine, Norway
Builder:Maritime Robotics, Norway
Hull construction material:Polyethylene
Length overall:5.95 metres
Beam:2.05 metres
Displacement:1,900 kg
Maximum speed:25 knots
Radio:Marine broadband
Operational area:Antarctica
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