An Uncrewed Surface Vessel (USV) has returned from an initial survey mission inside the caldera of a volcano in Tonga with a wide range of ocean data for scientific study, as part of the NIWA/Nippon Foundation Tonga Eruption Seabed Mapping Project (TESMaP), funded by The Nippon Foundation in Japan.
The Maxlimer USV was equipped with autonomous vessel technologies from SEA-KIT International and a Multibeam Echo Sounder (MBES) used to acoustically measure the depth and state of the seabed around the Hunga-Tonga Hunga-Ha’apai (HT–HH) volcano.
The vessel also featured a winch capability for deployment of multiple sensors down to 300 metres to obtain direct water column measurements.
The 12-metre USV was remotely controlled on its caldera missions from SEA-KIT’s base 16,000km away in Essex, United Kingdom, where a team of four operators worked shifts for round-the-clock operation.
A global team of surveyors and scientists based in Australia, Egypt, Ireland, Mauritius, New Zealand, Poland and the USA are collaboratively monitoring and reviewing the data collected.
“Maxlimer was the first SEA-KIT X-class USV to be built. There are now numerous X-class vessels working commercially around the world, but this project clearly demonstrates how crucial this technology is as a low-risk, non-invasive solution to reach, survey and understand places that are challenging or unsafe for people to access,” said Ben Simpson, SEA-KIT CEO.
“Maxlimer experienced 3 metre seas on return from this first mission, which proves yet again how robust the design is. Demonstrating that this kind of work can be done using less than 2% of the fuel of a typical survey vessel is also a significant step on the industry’s path towards net zero emissions.”