I-AUV Docking and Panel Intervention at Sea

The use of commercially available autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs) has increased during the last fifteen years. While they are mainly used for routine survey missions, there is a set of applications that nowadays can be only addressed by manned submersibles or work-class remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) equipped with teleoperated arms: the intervention applications. To allow these heavy vehicles controlled by human operators to perform intervention tasks, underwater structures like observatory facilities, subsea panels or oil-well Christmas trees have been adapted, making them more robust and easier to operate. The TRITON Spanish founded project proposes the use of a light-weight intervention AUV (I-AUV) to carry out intervention applications simplifying the adaptation of these underwater structures and drastically reducing the operational cost. To prove this concept, the Girona 500 I-AUV is used to autonomously dock into an adapted subsea panel and once docked perform an intervention composed of turning a valve and plugging in/unplugging a connector. The techniques used for the autonomous docking and manipulation as well as the design of an adapted subsea panel with a funnel-based docking system are presented in this article together with the results achieved in a water tank and at sea ​
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