• NauticExpo e-Magazine - #5 - Smarter and more Secure - NauticExpo e-Magazine

    The Smart Way to Security

    Are drones and ROVs your new best friends? From a security standpoint, almost certainly. With new regulations released on a regular basis and unprecedented levels of threats and environmental concerns, getting a little help from autonomous robotic workers seems to be the smartest solution.

    In this 5th issue of NauticExpo e-Magazine, you’ll learn how next-gen drones can protect you, while ROVs ensure compliance and efficiency.

    Talking efficiency, we chose to highlight Liebherr’s big data initiative in this issue. Big data seems to be one of the main buzz words in industry today, but few companies are taking advantage of it. Check out what this crane manufacturer has to say.

    Fullpage ABB
    Smart People
    With LiDAT, it’s possible to analyse cranes’ operation and performance data and get answers almost immediately.


    Rostock-based German manufacturer Liebherr is one of the first maritime companies to use big data as an IT tool. With the introduction of the LiDAT smartApp and a big data platform, which optimizes the performance of its cranes at ports and terminals globally, Liebherr has made it possible to quickly analyze operating...

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    We recognized that AUVs had two major shortcomings: lack of surface capability and limited maneuverability.

    Underwater drones, or Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUV) are nothing new in subsea security. But that didn’t stop French manufacturer Thales from creating a sensation at the Euronaval trade fair with a beast of a different stripe: the Autonomous Underwater & Surface System (AUSS). This elegantly designed drone can not only carry out underwater missions—inspecting offshore oil installations, for instance—but also can operate at the surface by positioning itself vertically and deploying a mast above the water.

    Courtesy of Thales

    Courtesy of Thales

    We interviewed Jean-François Ghignoni, Marketing Director for Underwater Systems at Thales to learn more.

    NauticExpo e-Magazine: When did the project begin and how did you get the idea for this new type of drone?

    Jean-François Ghignoni: The project began in 2012. Thales already had significant experience with underwater minewarfare AUVs, and we thought such unmanned systems could have other applications, including civilian ones. We recognized that they had two major shortcomings: lack of surface capability and limited maneuverability. We put on our thinking caps and asked ourselves what kinds of innovations we could put into the next generation. In the end, we came up with a dozen innovations.

    NauticExpo e-Magazine: The AUSS can turn around in less than 10 meters. What gives it such great maneuverability?

    Jean-François Ghignoni: Its propulsion system works without fins. I can’t go into the details of the technology due to confidentiality issues. What I can tell you is that our drone doesn’t need to be moving through the water to maneuver. It also has a dynamic buoyancy control system.

    Monitoring Underwater Infrastructure

    NauticExpo e-Magazine: What sets it apart is that it can operate at the surface as well as underwater.

    Jean-François Ghignoni: Yes. Its ability to deploy a mast at the surface makes possible coastal surveillance without deploying visible means such as aircrafts or boats, in other words, discreetly. At the same time, the AUSS can monitor underwater infrastructure, for example for the oil industry. It differs from an ROV, which is controlled by the crew of a surface ship.

    Our system was designed for maneuverability and extended mission capability. If you have recharging systems, you can do without 80% of the vessels previously required.

    If you have recharging systems, you can do without 80% of the vessels previously required.

    NauticExpo e-Magazine: What’s its range?

    Jean-François Ghignoni: Today, it can operate for two weeks over 50 nautical miles. For example, an AUSS can extend its mast for a while, shoot a video and then stand by at depth.

    A 17 Knots Speed

    NauticExpo e-Magazine: The AUSS has a top speed in excess of existing underwater drones.

    Courtesy of Thales

    Courtesy of Thales

    Jean-François Ghignoni: The prototype can reach 17 knots, and we expect to reach 20 knots. Limited speed is a drawback of existing AUVs, which top out at about 6 knots.

    NauticExpo e-Magazine: How does the AUSS communicate with shoreside systems?

    Jean-François Ghignoni: This is an important issue that must be discussed with our clients. It’s perfectly possible to imagine incorporating a compact satellite communications system. We’re also looking at line-of-sight radio communications solutions. Another possibility is a link to aircraft, similar to communications with sonor buoys.

    NauticExpo e-Magazine: Will the AUSS have built-in intelligence?

    Jean-François Ghignoni: Since 2009-10 we’ve launched AUVs with mission-specific intelligence. We spend a lot of time working on this to find an algorithm that makes the system autonomous. We think the level of autonomy will evolve, as is the case in the automobile industry.

    The Benefits of Design

    NauticExpo e-Magazine: When can we expect to see a completely operational AUSS?

    Jean-François Ghignoni: Today’s AUSS is a prototype developed over the course of three years. Everything will depend on client requests. We expect to see the first operational system in three or four years.

    NauticExpo e-Magazine: The AUSS has a particular look.

    Jean-François Ghignoni: Yes. We wanted to differentiate our drone visually. We brought in a designer after two or three sea trials. He changed not only the color, but also the shape of the drone.

    It really surprised us when the new configuration performed better than the initial one. There was close collaboration with the engineers. This could be the first time that external system or equipment design led to such an improvement.


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    We can inspect where other solutions are too expensive, too dangerous or simply not practical to use


    Hull cleaning and inspection are everyday elements of maintaining a vessel. With remotely operated vehicles (ROVs), shipowners can carry out these tasks efficiently and without excessive costs. Rotterdam port’s EXCEL initiative, for startup businesses, has seen further developments in unmanned technology. One such...

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    Tony Slinn

    Formerly editor-in-chief of IHS Maritime, Tony Slinn is an independent maritime journalist.

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    Samantha Fisk

    Samantha Fisk worked at RINA for 7 years and has now gone into freelance for European magazines.

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    Ludovic Nachury

    Journalist and innovation enthusiast for more than 10 years, Ludovic Nachury is VirtualExpo e-magazine’s editor-in-chief.

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