Unmanned Systems Technology 015 | Martin UAV V-Bat | William Sachiti | Sonar Systems | USVs | Desert Aircraft DA150 EFI | SeaCat AUV/ROV | Gimbals

62 T he latest in a long line of unmanned underwater vehicles from Atlas Elektronik, the new SeaCat, is approaching production readiness. Resembling a combination of torpedo and miniature submarine, this hybrid autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) and remotely operated vehicle (ROV) is designed to operate in either mode when linked to a control station via a fibre optic cable or as a pure AUV when untethered. The project’s technical manager, Marian Marbach, likens the SeaCat to a Swiss Army knife because of the wide variety of sensors and effectors that can be installed in quickly interchangeable ‘SwapHead’ modules that attach to the front. Attaching a SwapHead essentially configures the vehicle for its mission. These include bathymetric, pipeline and hydrographic surveys; manually controlled inspection of selected objects; environmental monitoring for water quality; detecting buried metal objects such as mines; and imaging sub-bottom layers. A custom SwapHead is also available for customer-defined missions. The SeaCat is being developed primarily for the civilian market, where price is an important issue, but it is also aimed at military requirements. It is intended to operate according to a pre- planned mission but with the ability to respond autonomously to targets it finds or obstacles it encounters. Alternatively, it can be controlled via a fibre optic link that can also send back imagery and other data. After extensive market research and discussion with civilian AUV operators, Jörg Kalwa, Atlas Elektronik’s UUV product manager, came up with the SwapHead concept to allow users to swap payloads rapidly in the field. The key element here is a standard interface between the sensors and the rest of the vehicle to enable heads to be changed rapidly on deck. The first production-standard vehicle is now undergoing initial testing in a lake near Bremen, as part of the production maturity phase, which started in early 2016. Experimental ancestry The SeaCat project’s genesis goes back to Kalwa’s early work on the AUV concept at Atlas as a means of adding value to ROVs in anticipation of some of the key roles that AUVs would come to undertake. From 2000-3, Atlas ran a project dubbed Advocate to explore onboard monitoring Peter Donaldson reports on the development of this hybrid nautical craft, which looks set to take AUV technology in a new direction Making waves August/September 2017 | Unmanned Systems Technology The SeaCat is built in modular sections, each of which is neutrally buoyant in its own right to eliminate the need for trim adjustments when modules are added or removed