Alister – Rapid Environment Assessment AUV (Autonomous Underwater Vehicle)
ECA is mainly known worldwide for its successful PAP family (mine disposal systems). In the late 1970s, ECA designed the first operational AUV, named EPAULARD for IFREMER. Using its know-how gained over the years in designing and building various types of free swimming and inspection underwater vehicles, ECA decided in spring 2003 to develop the A3000, the first inspection AUV with hovering capabilities. This system was successfully tested in deep water by BP in the Gulf of Mexico in July 2006. All the experience gained during the development and trials of the A3000 have been used to develop and manufacture a Rapid Environment Assessment AUV that was ordered by the French MoD, the end user being the French Navy Hydrographic Service (SHOM). The first part of the presentation will detail the advantages of using AUVs: Level of equipment and tonnage of the vessel needed Reduced manpower Operating footprint unlimited, since an AUV is free swimming, whereas ROV or towed systems have limitations because of their umbilical cables The surface ship can carry out parallel tasks Operation duration is reduced, because the vehicle is not influenced by the state of the sea and the ship’s movements High quality of the data retrieved: this is due to the fact that an AUV operates without an umbilical cable A brief description of the A3000 inspection AUV will then be presented, showing that detailed inspection and identification of underwater objects can already be achieved using AUVs. The paper will then focus on the ALISTER REA AUV with a detailed presentation of the system including its description, performance, suite of sensors (SSS, MBE, SBP, etc.), and results of trials at sea that were conducted in 2007 and 2008.