CSA Ocean Sciences Inc. (CSA) recently introduced its new Unmanned Surface Vehicle (USV) to select audiences during two live field demonstrations, with the first staged at Harney Park, Tampa and the second at Demens Landing Park, St. Petersburg. During these live demonstrations, CSA staff put the USV through its paces, demonstrating a few of the unique interactive and autonomous operation capabilities of the USV to staff representatives of the Southwest Florida Water Management District, Hillsborough County Environmental Protection Commission, private consulting firms, and the University of South Florida College of Marine Science and Center for Ocean Technology. The USV was also put on display for a static demonstration in front of a few select staff representatives of the Tampa Port Authority and another private consulting firm at the Port of Tampa in downtown Tampa.

The USV, manufactured by SeaRobotics Corporation, is a safe and reliable system designed to economically conduct environmental/ecological support surveys for habitat mapping, bathymetry, cultural resources, hazards, and munitions and explosives of concern, including unexploded ordnances and discarded munitions. This relatively small, lightweight, and highly adaptable platform can be quickly outfitted to carry an array of specialized marine survey equipment, including differential global positioning systems capable of utilizing real-time kinematic corrections for increased accuracy, side-scan sonar, sub-bottom profiler, multi-beam sonar, single/split-beam scientific echo sounder, magnetometer, imaging sonar, and water quality sampling equipment. Unlike traditional manned vessels, the highly maneuverable battery-powered USV can be deployed in areas of hazardous conditions and can operate in shallow nearshore waters, rivers, lakes, canals, and/or other confined waterways with limited accessibility.

CSA’s USV is returning from a recent successful effort at a North Dakota project site, where the USV carried acoustic instrumentation to monitor protected fish species in a lake, including sturgeon and paddlefish. To increase the efficiency of seagrass mapping efforts on Florida’s west coast, CSA is focused on further refining and outfitting the USV, which now includes an underwater camera and light system coupled with their side-scan survey system. All of the data collected during operations are stored on the on-board computer and are telemetered to the operator’s shore-side station—with video imagery, bathymetry, and side-scan sonar mosaicking all displayed in real-time. Anticipated additional modifications will allow for the USV to be equipped with instrumentation to collect discrete water samples for river, bay, and nearshore water quality sampling.