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launching AUV

Launching the Munin+ AUV at the test site. Photo: Rebecca Ross, IMR

Photo: Rebecca Ross, Havforskningsinstituttet

Mobilising Munin+ for MAREANO

Expedition diary: And now for something completely different. Standard MAREANO sampling cruises collect biology, geology and chemistry data using video and physical sampling. This cruise is dedicated to exploring new methods, specifically, what MAREANO could gain from the use of autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs).

In 2015 MAREANO conducted some initial tests using the Kongsberg Maritime Hugin AUV, in collaboration with the Norwegian Defence Research Establishment (FFI), showing promising results. Now IMR has purchased a similar AUV also developed by Kongsberg Maritime.

Undervannsfarkosten står på kaien sammen med tilhørende utstyr.
The Munin+ AUV and its launch system ready to be brought on board.
Photo: Rebecca Ross, IMR

Our brand-new Munin+ AUV, is 5 m long, orange and shaped like a torpedo. It is designed to collect multiple types of acoustic data (multibeam echosounder, synthetic aperture sonar, side scan sonar, sub bottom profiler) and oceanographic data (CT, ADCP) as well as photos. As it is autonomous you can send the AUV off on its own to collect these data while the ship is nearby working on something else.

So, if we can use AUVs to collect multiple datasets in a single dive, in parallel with traditional sampling, we hope to be able to conduct MAREANO surveys more efficiently, and with more data than ever. This will be particularly useful when MAREANO starts mapping the deep Norwegian Sea, where the time it takes to send equipment from the ship to the seabed is much longer. As time is money, and ship-time expensive, any chance of gaining efficiency should be taken!

Bilde av havbunnen.
A photo taken by the Munin+ AUV on the test dive showing Bolocera tuediae anemones and red algae on the seafloor.

That’s where this cruise comes in. Joining the AUV operators are a multidisciplinary team (spanning geology, oceanography, biology, hydrography) from IMR, NGU, and Kartverket. The first day’s task was to mount the AUV launch system safely and securely aboard the RV G.O. Sars. This took the whole first day, but by early on day 2 we were ready to leave Tromsø and head to a nearby area of declassified seabed approved for testing and calibrating equipment. Here we checked that all of the AUV systems were working and performed a test dive that gained a small dataset from each sensor and allowed a calibration of the multibeam against existing, quality checked data. It took some time to get this going, but, helped by a team from Kongsberg Maritime, by the evening of day two we had successfully completed the test dive and were able to drop off the Kongsberg team in Tromsø and start heading out to sea.

Bilde av fire personer som studerer data på en tv-skjerm.
Some of the team reviewing data collected on the test dive.
Photo: Rebecca Ross, IMR

In the coming days we plan to visit several sites that MAREANO has already mapped and continue to test the capabilities of the new AUV and others like it. We’ll test what kind of terrain such AUVs can operate over and compare the photos taken from an AUV to previous video data. We’ll also examine the various types of acoustic data and see what added value these high-resolution, near-seabed surveys can give. The aim is to find the best ways to use this exciting new equipment. So, wish us luck!

Skjermbilde som viser målinger som AUV'en har gjort på havbunnen.
Multibeam data replayed in the AUV control software.
Photo: Rebecca Ross, IMR

Currently we are road-testing newly installed oceanographic equipment whilst transiting between sites. We are also busy reviewing the test site data, planning more dives, and developing workflows, while finding a little time to enjoy the fine weather and delicious cake.


Photo of Rebecca Ross

Rebecca Ross

Institute of Marine Research
Biological mapping
+47 908 77 529
Photo of Margaret Dolan

Margaret Dolan

Geological Survey of Norway (NGU)
+47 73 90 42 67
Bilde mangler

Tor Jan Meek

+47 412 51 800