Unmanned Systems Technology 036

22 T he origin of Saab’s Sabertooth AUV goes back to a brainstorming session in 2008 between the company and Norwegian offshore engineering giant Aker Solutions. The purpose of the meeting was to begin shaping a new generation of machines that could be stationed on the sea floor on an effectively permanent basis to act as caretakers to the energy infrastructure in waters as deep as 3000 m. Potentially, they would be supervised from onshore facilities most of the time to reduce the need for expensive launch, recovery and support vessels. Chief engineer Jan Siesjo describes the Sabertooth as a way of transitioning into a new world of offshore operations that erases the traditional boundaries between ROVs and AUVs, in that it can work in either mode. “The more autonomous technology that’s introduced, the smaller the difference between an ROV and an AUV. It is just a matter of the degree of operator support provided and the quality of communication that you need to get things done,” he says. “The basic requirements came out of that cooperation with Aker,” he recalls. “They build the infrastructure on the sea floor, so they have a good idea of what needs to be done. We looked at big, small and intermediate vehicles and arrived at a size and capacity that represents something of a sweet spot.” This deep-sea robotic ‘caretaker’ for offshore infrastructures has been designed to operate as an ROV or AUV, as Peter Donaldson explains Seabed sentinel February/March 2021 | Unmanned Systems Technology