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Research and development company, Safeguard Nautica, has joined forces with control systems partner, Reygar, to develop a portable unmanned survey system for inland waterways.

The micro rapid environmental assessment vessel (mREAV) was developed as part of a project sponsored by UK Research and Innovation’s Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund for Robotics and Artificial Intelligence in Extreme and Challenging Environments and has successfully completed initial trials in the south west of England.

“The unmanned vessel can be fitted with a variety of survey equipment, allowing it to map factors such as bathymetry, river flow rate, water quality and temperature, making it particularly ideal for organisations responsible for environmental monitoring as well as ensuring safe navigation for inland vessels such as canal users,” said Reygar’s MD, Chris Huxley-Reynard.

Live data

The unmanned platform with automated swathe following and station-keeping features was verified in high-current environments, streaming live data to the operator onshore.

The design focused on packaging the mREAV into a lightweight and compact unmanned surface vessel which may be carried in small vehicles or as civilian aircraft luggage. The hull form reduces flow disturbance in way of the survey payload resulting in a sensor platform less than 1m in length and weighing less than 20kg.

During trials, the mREAV followed pre-programmed survey missions in still water and in high-current estuaries, enabling live data to be streamed in both shallow water and hazardous environments.

Safeguard Nautica's new miniature survey vessel Photo: Safeguard Nautica

Safeguard Nautica's new miniature survey vessel Photo: Safeguard Nautica