VESSEL REVIEW | FlipiX – Multi-sensor ROV for light survey work

UNMANNED CRAFT WEEK
Photo: iXblue

French autonomous systems specialist iXblue has introduced a new type of towed remotely operated vehicle (ROV) that will utilise multiple sensors for light survey duties.

FlipiX is designed to be operated autonomously from a small crewed survey vessel or from iXblue’s DriX unmanned surface vehicle (USV). The ROV will be capable of conducting autonomous bathymetric, geophysical, and unexploded ordnance (UXO) survey operations in a single run, thus eliminating the need to conduct additional sweeps of the same area just to gather the required volume of data.

The craft measures 1.8 by 2.7 metres and has a minimum displacement of 68 kilograms. The array of sensors includes an Edgetech side-scan sonar and a Geomatrix magnetometer. These sensors are intended primarily to complement the existing multi-beam echosounders and other sensors on the larger vessels it is tasked with supporting to ensure total coverage of areas in which it is deployed.

FlipiX operating in conjunction with iXblue’s DriX USV (off in the distance) (Photo: iXblue)

The ROV was designed to be operated at towing speeds of up to seven knots. Altitude, pitch, and roll are autonomously adjusted with the aid of control surfaces similar to those found on aircraft. This will ensure that the measuring instruments are kept at a fixed altitude and a constant attitude even with no intervention by a human operator.

This active motion control provides the ROV with increased stability and manoeuvrability, even during U-turns, hence resulting in more accurate measurements even when operating in harsh maritime environments. Because the measured data are more accurate, the time it takes for surveys to be conducted can be significantly reduced, thus allowing more projects to be included in the pipeline.

When combined with iXblue’s proprietary DriX USV, the ROV can operate down to water depths of 50 metres in its standard version. It can also provide optimal positioning of measurement instruments for data acquisition to be conducted as close to the seabed as possible. The ROV is designed to be operated around three metres above the seabed to provide a unique environment for data measurements.

The ROV also comes with a dedicated launch and recovery system (LARS) that will allow it to be quickly deployed into the water from a vessel of opportunity. The LARS is designed to enable effective deployment of the ROV with less manpower compared to traditional launch systems. The craft may be controlled via an over-the-horizon communication link when deployed from a USV for expanded operational flexibility.

The other applications for the ROV include wreck detection, subsea cable and pipe inspection from pre-lay to post-lay, marine environmental assessment, and support for dredging works.

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FlipiX
SPECIFICATIONS
Type of vessel:ROV – Survey
Flag:France
Owner:iXblue, France
Builder:iXblue, France
Length overall:1.8 metres
Beam:2.7 metres
Displacement:68 kilograms
Sonar:Edgetech
Other electronics:Geomatrix magnetometer

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