This week, the National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science (NCCOS) is partnering with the Office of Coast Survey, the Office of Marine and Aviation Operations (OMAO), NOAA Ship Nancy Foster, and ASV Global, an unmanned vehicle manufacturer, to conduct an operational evaluation of an unmanned surface vessel (USV) during a bathymetric and marine habitat survey offshore of the Carolinas. The unmanned small boat,C-Worker 5,can be remotely operated and monitored from a control station aboard the host ship, and can also be programmed to drive survey lines while operator's monitor vehicle and data collection systems.
The USV has been successfully launched to conduct a multibeam sonar system calibration test, known as a patch test, and conduct multiple hydrographic surveys in coordination with the ship since Saturday. The USV and Nancy Foster are surveying about 3 KM apart while two watchstanders aboard Nancy Foster are monitoring the USV's command and control systems as well as a real-time display of its survey systems. The C-Worker 5 is recovered after each operation to replenish diesel fuel and monitor data collection quality.
Coast Survey will use the experience to create a transition path for USV use in routine hydrographic surveys. OMAO will evaluate the shipboard requirements for hosting and operating unmanned systems, while the data collected will support NCCOS's mission to conduct ecological characterizations of hardbottom and rocky reef essential fish habitats in the southeast U.S. Atlantic waters to guide ecosystem management and ocean planning.