Posted on October 19, 2022

All at sea with Boaty McBoatface

NOC led project Autonomous Techniques for infraStructure Ecological Assessment (AT-SEA) has launched off the coast of Shetland. The ALR will help to monitor and protect the marine environment in the North Sea and to support industry transition towards its net-zero targets.

The Autonomous Techniques for infraStructure Ecological Assessment (AT-SEA) project, led by the NOC is trialling the concept of using submarines like Boaty for high-tech, low-impact monitoring to pick up any potential environmental impacts at these industrial sites. This may eventually replace the current approach for environmental monitoring for decommissioning that requires dedicated ships and teams of people offshore.

Ocean robots, which use computer systems to carry out survey missions by themselves, are regularly used by scientists for environmental assessments as they collect very high-quality data quickly. Additionally, using autonomous underwater vehicles is a low carbon solution to the issues with environmental monitoring that will bring substantial reductions in emissions of greenhouse gasses over the traditional approaches of using ships. Recent technological developments have cut the cost and expanded the range of these robots to thousands of kilometres, making it possible for long-range assessments of multiple sites to be undertaken with a robot that is launched from the shore.

The NOC’s AT-SEA project is taking place over a 10-day period using state-of-the-art technology, with the aim to provide future-proof solutions for the oil industry focusing on the need to reach better net-zero targets. The robots are gathering data on the water, pollutants and currents, as well as taking images of the sea floor. The team is testing whether these robotic systems can gather equivalent information to the surveys currently done using ships. In doing so, emissions, risks and the cost of these operations will be significantly reduced in the future, thanks to the automated technology being developed at the NOC.

We are looking forward to hearing more about the mission after Boaty's successful return!