A consortium of maritime companies has unveiled a new concept design for a crewless Autonomous Guard Vessel (AGV), an unmanned craft that could be used to protect offshore operations based on currently available technologies.
The consortium consists of C-Job Naval Architects, Sea Machines, LISA Community, Seazip Offshore Service, Maritime Research Institute Netherlands (MARIN) and eL-Tec Elektrotechnologie.
The AGV is specifically designed for surveillance of offshore structures, ranging from wind farms to substation platforms and cable routes, continuously monitoring nearby marine traffic visually as well as via radar and AIS.
With any vessel that approaches, measures will be taken to secure the area in order to avoid collisions and damage to the offshore infrastructure. An intruding vessel can be communicated with and will receive information on how to safely navigate the area as well as being physically escorted away from the site by the AGV. Additionally, the encounter will be recorded to provide video footage in case of any violation or accident.
“Guard vessels perform an essential job, however, it is not the most exciting one for crew. Combined with the fact that conventional guard vessels are mostly outdated and thus aren’t necessarily the most comfortable let alone sustainable, it can be difficult to find well-trained crew willing to do the job,” said Pelle de Jong, founding partner of LISA.
“The group set out to improve upon the overall process of securing an offshore area while incorporating sustainable solutions and reducing overall cost. By utilising the knowledge we have as a group as well as the technology already available, we succeeded in creating a design which does this and more.”
Without crew, accommodation can be eliminated in the design, meaning the ship will be considerably smaller than existing guard vessels. This creates further design opportunities, such as using batteries thanks to the reduced propulsion requirements for the lighter craft.
“We are pleased we were able to develop a battery-powered design, ensuring the AGV is free of harmful emissions. Additionally, the ship has solar panels across the top which allows for the continuation of navigation and communications in case the batteries run out of power,” said Rolph Hijdra, autonomous research lead at C-Job Naval Architects.
“Contrary to current guard vessels, the AGV will continue to be operational even with rough sea conditions and have minimal underwater noise owing to the smaller size, reduced propulsion requirements and absence of a diesel engine.”
Batteries will recharge via a charging station that can be moored independently or connected to existing equipment on-site. Depending on the situation, charging could either be conducted via a cable connection to the on-site equipment such as an offshore transformer platform or locally generated using renewable fuels.
For exceptional circumstances where the AGV requires human intervention a connection to a command centre can be initiated, to control the vessel remotely. All data collected by the AGV will be sent to the command centre on a regular basis.