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Underwater arctic environment

Underwater arctic environment
The technology will ?expand our knowledge of the virtually unexplored underwater arctic environment,? says Bjorn Jalving of Kongsberg Maritime.

The technology will "expand our knowledge of the virtually unexplored underwater arctic environment," says Bjorn Jalving of Kongsberg Maritime.

A new development in under-ice communication is getting underway. The technology will "expand our knowledge of the virtually unexplored underwater arctic environment," says Bjorn Jalving of Kongsberg Maritime.

The company has, together with Wireless Fibre Systems (WFS), created a way to locate and communicate with Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUVs) in ice conditions: this will not only reduce the possibility of loss, and so increase the viability of using AUVs under the ice, but will also open up the area for to extensive, large area mapping, explains Mr Jalving.

The use of AUVs is growing across the globe, and in recent years the craft have developed excellent mobility and flexibility, partly because of their expanding use in conditions where you simply don"t want to send divers. The data revolution has meant advances in remote units" capability in delivering high quality and high resolution information from the underwater environment. In polar regions AUVs offer the added advantage of being able to explore beneath the ice, but at present, sub-ice AUV operations are seldom carried out because of the risk of losing the vehicle.

Kongsberg and WFS intend to equip a HUGIN 1000 AUV with the new comms technology. This type of unit is capable of performing high-speed surveys and providing navigation data down to a depth of 1,000 meters (the maximum operating depth is 3,000 metres). Further, the vehicle can be operated in either operator supervised or full autonomous mode and has a running time of 24 hours at a steady 4 knots.

The "Through Ice Location and Communication System" - or TILACSys for short - has received investment from the UK's Technology Strategy Board and the Research Council of Norway. The project is expected to run for two years, with the objective of delivering a demonstrator system that will be the first of its kind in the world.

TILACSys will enable a surface vessel, a helicopter or an unmanned aerial vehicle to locate and communicate with the AUV below the ice. The system is seen as a key component for reducing risk during under ice AUV operations, which have the potential to increase human knowledge about topography, oceanography, marine life and marine systems in arctic areas.

Iain Gray from the UK"s Technology Strategy Board said: "Taking broadband technology into these remote and otherwise inaccessible locations is a really exciting enterprise. We are pleased to have the opportunity to invest in such an innovative project."

Brendan Hyland, CEO of WFS, adds that the development is an opportunity to put European research at the forefront of Arctic exploration.

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