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INEGI paves the way for remote monitoring in offshore aquaculture with modular docking station

21 June 2021
Offshore aquaculture, where fish are kept in floating cages at sea, is an activity exposed to extreme ocean conditions that affect structures and operation in the open sea. The success of production is therefore largely dependent on remote monitoring of production conditions. Autonomous underwater vehicles (AUV) are capable of guaranteeing this control, but there is an obstacle: they have a range of only a few hours.

In order to face this challenge, INEGI, in collaboration with INESC TEC, developed a docking station to increase the permanence time of this equipment at sea. It is modular and capable of housing various types or geometries of vehicles, allowing data transfers and battery charging.

The docking station, whose electromechanical system was designed at INEGI, is being "tested in the laboratory, and will soon take its first steps at sea", says Tiago Morais, responsible for the project. It will contribute to "increase the range of operations and missions of the AUVs, in order to avoid human presence, and reduce risks and costs", he adds.

Autonomous underwater and unmanned vehicles are capable of performing various operations efficiently and economically, from monitoring and exploration of the ocean, bathymetric tasks or even inspection of underwater structures. Despite this versatility, its long-term use is still very limited by the vehicles' energy autonomy. Installation and recovery operations are therefore indispensable, requiring time, labor, and the use of a support vessel, with a significant impact on operating costs.

Effective monitoring contributes to activity profitability

The equipment was developed within the scope of the INTENDU project, which brought together entities from Portugal, France and Norway, in an effort to contribute to the technological evolution of robotic underwater platforms and vehicles for the benefit of the aquaculture sector.

The project arose from the need to have means of remote monitoring of infrastructure, in particular salmonid aquaculture, common on the Norwegian west coast. The consortium partners intend to tackle the problem through autonomous vehicles, equipped with cameras and sensors to detect damage in real time. These systems will be assisted by the docking stations, in order to be able to autonomously cover greater distances.

Increasing the capacity of these technologies and investing in 4.0 technologies is an advantage for the aquaculture sector, which has been growing in line with the increase in fish consumption worldwide, and presents itself as an alternative to habitat destruction.

The INTENDU project - Integrated Technologies Longterm Deployment of Robotic Underwater platforms is funded by the partners MarTERA: Foundation for Science and Technology (Portugal), Research Council of Norway (Norway), by the Agence Nationale de Recherche (France), and co-financed by European Union.
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