Saab takes green technology to new depths
Investments in maritime infrastructure and facilities are growing. Everything from renewable energy and agriculture and fish farms on an industrial scale, to new offshore installations for oil and gas. This is where Saab and Sabertooth make a difference by making the work below the surface easier, more efficient and environmentally sustainable.
Building and operating maritime facilities entails major challenges. These constructions are often complex and can be floating or attached to the bottom. Some are even placed on the seabed. Many are also located far from land and at great depths. Whether it is about wind power, gas pipelines, oil rigs, water tunnels in power plants or electric cables on the bottom of the ocean, they all require continuous maintenance to ensure reliability and smooth operations with minimal disruption and environmental impact. Ensuring that everyday life goes on undisturbed and society continues to function as it should.
"This is where Sabertooth fits in perfectly. It is an unmanned hybrid underwater vehicle ideal for offshore survey, IMR, environmental monitoring, inspection of installations, infrastructure on the sea floor and hydro power plant tunnels in autonomous mode. Its strong, compact format and the built-in flexibility qualify it as a key resource during construction phases as well as for long-term service and maintenance assignments. It can perform anything from routine duties to more complex tasks at depths of up to 3,000 metres. It can be equipped with both acoustic and optical sensors as well as a wide range of tools. ‘A bit like a Swiss Army knife’, as one customer put it,” says Peter Erkers, Sales Director at Saab.
Replacing hydraulic ROV’s
Today, underwater projects often use remote-controlled hydraulic vehicles deployed from large surface vessels, which are associated with environmental challenges, especially in view of the carbon footprints left behind by the supply vessels and the risk of oil leakage from their hydraulic systems.
Pushing underwater boundaries
Sabertooth, on the other hand, is an electrically powered lightweight hybrid underwater vehicle designed to reduce human, technical and environmental risks. The small size, tether-free operational capability and six-degrees-of-freedom-of-movement manoeuvrability ensure easy and safe access within and around complex structures.
“Sabertooth is the only hovering autonomous system that can operate in both autonomous and remote mode and handle connections in both the horizontal and vertical plane”, says Peter Erkers.
In autonomous mode, Sabertooth can be programmed to undertake tasks completely on its own, such as routine tasks that previously required manual intervention. Sabertooth was also the first craft to connect to a docking station located on the sea floor and send data, be assigned new missions and charge the batteries. And it does this automatically without the need for human control. It also has a future potential to change work tools.
Explore the groundbreaking underwater docking technology for the Sabertooth vehicle.
"It is the only vehicle currently on the market capable of undertaking long-term residency in difficult to access locations. Furthermore, the new docking technology allows the Sabertooth to stay deployed in deep water for more than six months", Peter Erkers explains.
Wireless remote operation
In remote mode, the vehicle can be operated manually via a fibre-optic tether or wireless via BlueComm - an optical through-water communication link which is the underwater technology's equivalent of wi-fi, but where optical signals are used instead of radio waves, which work well in challenging underwater environments.
One who has extensive experience of this type of technology in both theory and practice is Ioseba Tena, Global Business Manager at Sonardyne, a leading global provider of marine technology.
“BlueComm and Sabertooth together provide a very unique capability. The ability for the AUV to be operated wirelessly by an operator is something I think operators want to happen. They want to know there is a man in the loop. If you can do this wirelessly you have the advantage of the system not getting entangled, which makes it a great tool”, says Ioseba Tena.
Challenging the extremes
70% of the Earth's surface is covered by water. Much of this vast area is inaccessible to humans due to the great depths with extreme levels of pressure, permanent darkness, cold, and strong currents. As human divers are unable to go below approx. 300 metres, we have to rely on robotic underwater systems to do the job for us. Working with traditional remotely operated vehicles the system's mobility are limited not least because the wire and the tether that connects the vehicle with the surface vessel can become tangled and complicate the work.
Autonomous systems, on the other hand, or those that can be operated wirelessly make it possible to work more efficiently, operate the system with greater precision, and have a significantly smaller environmental footprint.
This is how Andy Baker, AUV and Survey Lead formerly at Modus Seabed Intervention and now 3D at Depth, both companies that use the Sabertooth platform in their operations - puts it:
“I suppose looking at it from the survey point of view, due to my background, it is a very stable and capable platform. It has six degrees of freedom of movement so we can get a good visual, good coverage of data. And being stable and fast means we can get a better quality of data quicker with less people because it is an autonomous platform”.
Minimizing the environmental footprint
The underwater world is a complex and sensitive environment, and human activity can affect it negatively. More and more of the maritime stakeholders are becoming aware of the environmental aspects and understand that it is not only about what imprint they may leave behind, but also what impression their company or organization has on people's minds.
Today, in the light of, among others, the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, which also embrace the marine underwater environment, customers in the underwater domain are increasingly looking for more sustainable solutions with lower environmental impact. This has been an important factor when we developed Sabertooth and is also at the centre when we further develop our underwater vehicles.
Taking a leap with robotics
Recently, Saab unveiled a significant technological advance – the eManip Electrical Manipulator. It is an all-electric work-class-seven-function manipulator arm designed to provide an equally strong, but more precise and smarter manipulator than comparable hydraulic solutions. The new manipulator arm enables transition from manual control to supervised autonomy, and on to full autonomy.
“eManip will radically improve the system’s ability to perform more complex and demanding missions which will be required to meet the need for more efficient, cost-effective and sustainable solutions. And also to respond to the trend towards more and increasingly advanced and complex underwater projects”, Peter Erkers concludes.