Advanced survey payload for new NERC research vessel

David Goodfellow
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‘RRS Sir David Attenborough’, the new £140m polar research vessel under construction by Cammell Laird in Birkenhead, UK for the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), is to be equipped with a composite range of advanced survey and mapping equipment by Kongsberg Maritime of Norway.

The 128 metre-long ship, whose 100-tonne keel was laid in mid-October in the presence of its broadcaster dedicatee, Sir David Attenborough, will be operated by British Antarctic Survey (BAS) in both Arctic and Antarctic waters and is due to begin service in 2019.

Survey systems to be provided by Kongsberg as part of an overall scientific sensor package include EM 122 deep water and EM 712 medium depth multibeam sonars, both of which are to be ice-protected to ensure ultra high reliability and accuracy. In addition to a trio of biological multibeam and multi-frequency multibeam sounders and an EA 640 scientific sounder, other instrumentation comprises a Topas PS parametric high-penetration sub-bottom profiler, SH and SX omni-directional sonars and a K-Sync synchronisation unit for centralised control of multiple instrument transmissions.

The UK’s largest and most advanced multi-disciplinary research vessel, ‘RRS Sir David Attenborough’ will have a crew complement of around 30 together with accommodation for up to 60 scientists and support staff. Projected operational features include a range of 19,000nm at 13 knots transit and an ice-breaking capability of up to 1m thick at 3 knots.

By David Goodfellow

Artist impression of 'RRS Sir David Attenborough', the UK’s largest and most advanced multi-disciplinary research vessel being built by Cammell Laird