The National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) of New Zealand has begun operating a new locally built autonomous trimaran vessel that will be used for assessments of fish stocks.
Supplied by robotics company X-Craft Enterprises based in North Auckland, the autonomous surface vehicle (ASV) has just been on its first deep-water test run in the Cook Strait. Future sailings will see the craft operated further out in the waters of the Pacific Ocean to search for proof of illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing. In this role, the ASV will operate in conjunction with specialised unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) that are also built by X-Craft.
The ASV was designed to collect acoustic data in depths of at least 600 metres. It can be programmed to follow a specific track and is also equipped with collision avoidance technology. The recent sailings have also shown the vessel is capable of withstanding strong currents, thus allowing data gathering to be carried out even under moderate ocean wave conditions.
X-Craft said the ASV was designed to perform the primary task of hunting for and recording illegal fishing activity. The low-observable vessel is equipped with a range of data gathering payloads and artificial intelligence (AI) capability. AI enables the craft to detect, identify, and respond to events in surrounding waters. Philip Solaris, X-Craft’s chief executive, remarked that it has also learned to identify fishing boats out of the many vessels it encounters and to notify its shore-based operators whenever unexpected activity is detected.
The ASV can also carry modular pods with a range of equipment including emergency communications and medical supplies for search and rescue (SAR) and emergency response operations. In its fish stock assessment role, the vessel will carry a suite of data-gathering sensors such as multiple cameras and a battery-powered echosounder that is capable of estimating the size of fish populations.
The craft measures only six metres long and is of lightweight construction. Combined with a shallow draught, low infrastructure requirement, and easy modular maintenance, the vessel is ideal for operations around remote Pacific islands and atolls that have little to no logistical support facilities. It can also be deployed from other oceangoing vessels or even from an unprepared beach.
The ASV was designed to be operated out at sea for extended periods, returning to shore only to undergo repairs. The long endurance is made possible by an array of solar panels that supply electrical power for use by the propulsion and the various onboard systems.
|Type of vessel:||ASV – Survey and enforcement|
|Owner:||National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research, New Zealand|
|Builder:||X-Craft Enterprises, New Zealand|
|Length overall:||6.0 metres|
|Other equipment installed:||Solar panels|
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