Marine robotics has entered a new era with the development of Squads of Adaptive Robots (SoAR), a groundbreaking project funded by Innovate UK. Aimed at reshaping the landscape of ocean exploration, SoAR has already demonstrated remarkable achievements in underwater missions, collaborative technologies, and the potential to revolutionize offshore industries.
SoAR is a two-year research and development initiative led by Planet Ocean, the developer of ecoSUB AUVs. It brought together industry partners like Sonardyne International and HydroSurv, along with academic institutions such as the National Oceanography Centre (NOC) and Royal Holloway University. The project focused on tackling the limitations of individual Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUVs) in large-scale survey and exploration missions.
To overcome these limitations, SoAR introduced advanced AI-driven mission planning and communication protocols for fleet coordination. Additionally, substantial enhancements were made in underwater navigation and communication technology. Open-water trials conducted at the Smart Sound Plymouth on England’s south coast successfully demonstrated coordinated missions managed in real-time by an intelligent “Autonomy Engine.” The trials involved various surface and underwater autonomous systems, with mission control from a remote shore-based facility.
The versatility of the SoAR concept allows for its adaptation to various applications, primarily addressing the specific needs of the offshore wind sector. By offering new operational paradigms and significant long-term cost savings compared to conventional methods, SoAR has the potential to transform offshore asset construction and maintenance.
Key technological highlights of the SoAR concept include the Fleet-Level Autonomy Engine, which acts as the mission’s central nervous system, making real-time decisions and replanning as needed. The SoAR Communications Backbone ensures interoperability between the autonomy engine, vehicle-specific command and control systems, and other subsystems. In the trials, Sonardyne’s AvTrak 6 Nano transceivers provided inter-medium communications for AUVs, enabling seamless tracking and robust telemetry.
The SoAR fleet, managed and controlled from HydroSurv’s Remote Operations Centre in Exeter, utilized state-of-the-art communication systems, including 4G/LTE and Iridium, for efficient and reliable communication between subsea, surface, and the Autonomy Engine.
The potential of Squads of Adaptive Robots (SoAR) to revolutionize ocean exploration and offshore industries is undeniable. With advancements in AI, communication, and coordination, this pioneering project ushers in a new era of efficiency and productivity in maritime operations.
Q: What is SoAR?
A: Squads of Adaptive Robots (SoAR) is a pioneering project aimed at revolutionizing ocean exploration and enhancing underwater missions.
Q: What were the key achievements of the project?
A: SoAR demonstrated remarkable advancements in AI-driven mission planning, communication protocols for fleet coordination, and underwater navigation and communication technology.
Q: What is the purpose of SoAR?
A: SoAR aims to surpass the limitations of individual Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUVs) in large-scale survey and exploration missions.
Q: How were the open-water trials conducted?
A: The trials simulated an offshore windfarm survey mission and successfully demonstrated coordinated missions managed in real-time by an intelligent “Autonomy Engine.”
Q: What are the potential applications of SoAR?
A: SoAR primarily addresses the specific needs of the offshore wind sector but can be adapted to various other applications in ocean exploration and offshore industries.