Intellectual property patent status

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Users of Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUVs) often face limitations when operating vehicles in the field, with detrimental effects on mission planning, power consumption, scalability, vehicle safety, cost, and more. A new technological development has been created which enhances these capabilities and mitigates risks around deployment.

NOC anchoring system background


Without the ability to anchor an AUV to the seabed, the scope and success of deployment can often depend upon favourable weather conditions. This – coupled with a dependency on battery power – creates substantial limitations on effective planning and execution. The lack of an innovative, risk-free anchoring solution for AUVs also increases the chance of an AUV being trapped on the seabed, with significant losses of cost and data collection at stake, as well as environmental pollution.

It was essential for seabed anchoring to be enabled and designed in a way for AUVs to mitigate these issues.

The solution

Developed by the National Oceanography Centre (NOC), the Anchor System represents a significant milestone in underwater technology and research. This innovation allows for multiple anchoring events of the same vessel – a solution for long-duration research and survey missions requiring underwater vehicles.

Repeated anchoring to the seafloor enables these vehicles to hibernate between work intervals and during unfavourable weather conditions. This technology can also lead to cost reduction by extending on-site mission durations and conserving battery power, as well as lowering the risk of an AUV and its collected data going missing.

How it works: the anchor compartment of the AUV is flooded, making the vessel negatively buoyant so that it sinks. Once the anchor hits the seabed, the AUV returns to positive buoyancy and rides clear, operating in low power mode to either hibernate or carry out passive monitoring as required. Once the AUV is due to continue its mission, the anchor tether is released.

Key benefits

  • This technology unlocks optimised mission planning, allowing the user to schedule launches and hibernation periods for underwater vehicles, ensuring they are primed and ready in ideal conditions – making operations more efficient and less weather-dependent.
  • Minimal power consumption is required.
  • The system can be retrofitted to existing underwater vehicles, maximising capability without a full overhaul.
  • The system is scalable and can be made to fit a wide variety of vessel sizes.
  • Enhanced vehicle safety – minimising the risk of vehicle loss during missions.
  • Its low-cost, simple, straightforward design ensures reliability and ease of use.
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Potential applications

NOC anchoring system applications

Oceanographic and environmental applications

The Anchor System has a wide range of useful applications, including but not limited to: oceanographic research, environmental monitoring and surveying, offshore energy exploration, pipeline inspection, and underwater archaeology. This is applicable to both optimising operational capacity in active missions, where it would be beneficial to have the ability to anchor to the seabed for battery saving between tasks, and for static missions, where the AUV stays in one set location and monitors its immediate environment (such as listening to marine life). An anchored AUV is virtually silent compared with the acoustic noise from operating thrusters, and therefore mitigates disturbance and disruptions around it, leading to more accurate readings.

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