London UK, 9 May 2019 – London UK, 9 May 2019 – SEA-KIT International, the 12m-long uncrewed surface vessel (USV) designed and built in Essex, docked in the Belgian port city of Oostende earlier this week following a successful transit from West Mersea, UK. SEA-KIT, the 12m-long uncrewed surface vessel (USV) designed and built by in Essex, docked in the Belgian port city of Oostende earlier this week following a successful transit from West Mersea, UK. The voyage, which lasted 22 hours, represents the first commercial crossing of the North Sea by an autonomous vessel, and marks a significant breakthrough in uncrewed ocean transit.
SEA-KIT USV arrived at Oostende at 09:00 CEST on Tuesday 7 May, where it was welcomed by Belgian customs officers, who took delivery of a box of oysters caught around Mersea Island that SEA-KIT had delivered from its West Mersea point of departure. The box weighed around 5 kg – just a fraction of the current model’s maximum payload of up to 2.5 tonnes.
The SEA-KIT vessel USV Maxlimer is operated by SEA-KIT International Ltd, and is designed and developed by us here at Hushcraft Ltd, based in Tollesbury, Essex. SEA-KIT’s unique modular design means that it can be easily and cost effectively configured to a wide range of maritime tasks for various sectors. The vessel can be transported in a single 40ft container drastically reducing the mobilisation costs, whilst being truly uncrewed means SEA-KIT can conduct its missions without placing any human personnel in harm’s way and at significantly reduced rate.
The mission was designed to showcase SEA-KIT’s uncrewed navigation capabilities through GPS and satellite communication, including marine traffic avoidance in what is one of the world’s busiest shipping routes.
With the successful completion of the UK to Belgium mission, SEA-KIT’s voyage demonstrates an effective model for international communication and cooperation in the field of uncrewed shipping. The Global Situational Awareness via Internet (G-SAVI) communications and control system allows an operator to remotely access CCTV footage, thermal imaging and radar through SEA-KIT, as well as listen live to the vessel’s surroundings and communicate with others in the vicinity.
“This voyage has been months in the making, and to see it all come together today is amazing”, said Ben Simpson, managing director of SEA-KIT International Ltd. “It demonstrates not only the capacity of SEA-KIT and the robustness of the design, but the value and effectiveness of the cloud based communications technologies involved in uncrewed transit.”
“SEA-KIT is a fundamentally versatile model. Its potential lies in its ability to be adapted to a range of tasks, whether it be transit, hydrographic surveys, environmental missions, or marine safety and security. We’re tremendously excited to push the technology to its limits and see what we can achieve.”
The UK to Belgium transit was made possible with the support of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, the Department for Transport, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, partners in Belgium, and the European Space Agency. With this voyage completed, the team behind the mission will now set their sights on higher goals to test the capabilities of the vessel.
SEA-KIT was developed for, and used with, the Kongsberg Maritime Hugin AUV System for the GEBCO-Nippon Foundation Alumni Team entry to the Shell Ocean Discovery XPRIZE, a global competition challenging teams to advance deep-sea technologies for autonomous, fast, high-resolution ocean exploration. The GEBCO-NF team was funded by The Nippon Foundation of Japan, a private, non-profit foundation.
The team’s concept for efficient, safe and cost-effective seafloor mapping utilised the purpose-built Kongsberg Maritime Hugin AUV System, rated to operate at depths of up to 4,500 metres, supported by SEA-KIT, which has the ability to autonomously launch and recover the AUV and acts as a communication link during subsea survey operations.
The GEBCO-NF Alumni Team includes 16 alumni of The Nippon Foundation-GEBCO Postgraduate Training Program at the University of New Hampshire, US, and hail from Russia, Egypt, South Africa, the USA, Mauritius, Peru, Ireland, Japan, the Philippines, Malaysia, Israel, Poland and Brazil.
The team made it through to the final round is currently in the running for the top prize of $5m. The winner of the Shell Ocean Discovery XPRIZE will be announced at an awards ceremony in Monaco later this month.
Here at Hushcraft, we are incredibly proud to have been such a large part in a hugely innovative project that has, and will continue to further advances in autonomous technology across the globe.
In 2016 Hush Craft Ltd were approached by GEBCO-Nippon Foundation Alumni Team to assist their team in the Shell Ocean Discovery XPRIZE competition. Hush Craft were responsible for designing, manufacturing and operating the unmanned surface vehicle ’SEA-KIT’. After two and a half years of planning and hard work the team have just completed our submission for the Shell Ocean Discovery XPRIZE competition finals, which are currently underway in Greece.
The Shell Ocean Discovery XPRIZE competition will accelerate innovation for rapid and unmanned exploration of the uncharted deep-sea; catalyze markets in deep ocean exploration and discovery; encourage sustainable resource development and protection; illuminate the most mysterious part of the planet and ignite the public imagination. Hush Craft Ltd’s ability to be a one stop shop for designing, developing and operating makes us perfectly suited for such a challenge.
SEA-KIT’s unmanned capabilities feature the ability to control the vessel from an operation centre, located anywhere in the world, no matter the distance from the vessel. This ability for remote operation has also been extended to surveying equipment on board, which includes state of the art MBES systems. SEA-KIT achieves this through its ability to stream live data to the operation centre via multiple satellite links.
Being a truly unmanned but fully compliant vessel provides SEA-KIT with a large variety of economic and environmental benefits compared to a typical research vessel. By eliminating the need for an on-board crew, the vessel size is reduced. The reduced vessel size combined with the hybrid diesel-electric propulsion system results in an approximated fuel reduction of 95%, which in turn significantly reduces the cost of data acquisition.
SEA-KIT was fitted with a custom-built gondola that is capable of mounting various multibeam systems to be able to conduct surveys in both deep and shallow waters.
The images show the underside of SEA-KIT. Here you can see the gondola fitted to house the multibeam and HiPAP for communicating with the AUV from the control centre.
On Friday the 9th of November at 03.00AM, after two and a half years of continual research, designing, planning and testing, SEA-KIT embarked on her mission in the finals of the Shell Ocean Discovery XPRIZE competition. The aim of her mission was to map at least 250 km2 to 500 km2 at depths of 2,000 m to 4,000 m.
SEA-KIT arrived back to shore at 13.30PM on Saturday the 10th of November, 35 hours after her departure. She had completed her mission perfectly to plan, with no physical human interaction. After the data was processed, the team presented their data submission to the XPRIZE judges and are now patiently awaiting the results.
SEA-KIT would like to thank the GEBCO-Nippon Foundation Alumni for including us as part of the team and to the Nippon Foundation for their continued support over the past two years. It has been a privilege for SEA-KIT to be part of such a ground breaking and exciting project.
What’s next for SEA-KIT?
SEA-KIT International Ltd is building on the foundations laid down by the XPRIZE competition, developing and conducting safe offshore operations and successfully ensuring that the original objectives of SEA-KIT are realised whilst exploring both scientific and commercial opportunities. Working with the GEBCO-NF Alumni team, associates and future clients to benefit great projects such as Seabed 2030, SEA-KIT International Ltd has several exciting opportunities to come in the new year.
We are keen to push new boundaries in many more marine sectors, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.