USV performs ‘first-of-its-kind’ fisheries research survey at US offshore wind sites

Exail’s DriX uncrewed surface vessel (USV) has finished what is said to be a first-of-its-kind fisheries research survey for assessment of the impact on biomass and fish stock before, during, and after wind farm construction. 

Source: NOAA

The DriX USV performed the survey offshore Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and New York for NOAA Fisheries Northeast Fisheries Research Science Center (NEFSC), in collaboration with NOAA USxOC, as well as Kongsberg and Nortek.

The vessel was equipped with a SeapiX-R 3D high-resolution multibeam echosounder from Exail, two Kongsberg EK80 single-beam echosounders, and a Nortek ADCP.

The operations aimed to collect information on the ocean conditions, marine life, and seafloor within existing and under-development offshore wind farm areas using multiple scientific sensors, like sonars and echosounders. 

By gathering data at proposed turbine locations, NOAA can make comparisons of environmental changes that occur before and after turbine construction.

Operating continuously in supervised autonomous mode, the DriX USV navigated over 5,000 kilometers of navigation lines, operating within 20 meters from wind farm monopiles, avoiding ships, fishing nets, and buoys. 

The USV transmitted the data to the remote operation center (ROC) established at the University of Rhode Island’s Inner Space Center in Narragansett, Rhode Island, and Exail’s Maritime Autonomy hub in La Ciotat, France.

“We would like to thank NOAA Fisheries Northeast Fisheries Research Science Center for the trust they have placed in Exail’s USV and sensors,”  said Shayan Haque, Business Development Manager at Exail.

“We are proud to have contributed to providing our customers with highly accurate scientific data, ranging from biomass detection in the water column to the finesse of sand displacement bathymetry.”

Exail said it had collaborated closely with the U.S. Coast Guard Sector Southeast New England, wind farm developers, and local mariners to guarantee the secure autonomous operation of the system within busy navigation channels and complex wind farm construction zones.

According to the company, DriX completed its mission leaving a minimal environmental footprint with a 90% decrease in CO2 emissions compared to a conventional survey vessel.

The DriX USV was developed by iXblue and ECA Group under the Exail joint brand, established at the end of 2022. The vessel has received Bureau Veritas Approval in Principle (AiP) as well as Lloyd’s Register certification.