Kawasaki Heavy Industries completed the verification test of an autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) in UK waters.
The AUV verification test was carried out from November 6 to 20, 2017 at The Underwater Centre, a UK marine testing and training facility in Fort William, Scotland.
Kawasaki has been developing leading-edge component technologies of AUVs utilizing sophisticated underwater vehicle technologies fostered in-house over the years, with support from a subsidization project by the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism (MLIT).
An AUV is capable of autonomously acting according to its surrounding conditions while carrying out pre-assigned missions, which stands in contrast to the more widely used remotely operated vehicle (ROV), which needs a tether cable for its operation.
As a result, AUVs can be operated without dedicated operators on the mother ship or special onboard equipment. Furthermore, tasks such as charging and transferring collected inspection data to the mother ship can be carried out while the AUV is underwater, which enables longer deployment time and reduces the frequency of launching and recovery work.
Tests at sea used a prototype AUV and a charging station, and included automated docking of the AUV to the charging station, contactless charging, and large-capacity optical communication operations.
Kawasaki plans to pursue full-scale development of a pipeline-inspection AUV which utilizes the automated docking and other component technologies tested in Scotland, as well as control algorithms being developed in cooperation with the UK's Heriot-Watt University, with the aim of commercializing the AUV by the end of 2020.