AUV-based Sonar Assists GLRC Pipeline Survey
Monday, November 11, 2013

Underwater pipeline surveys are of the utmost importance. Ensuring the location and integrity of a pipeline is important for the environment, the community and the operators of the asset. With the addition of high resolution and high quality sonars on smaller AUVs, these pipeline inspections can occur more readily and cover areas that can sometimes be a challenge to ship-based sonars alone. While recognized, this solution is not common. The Great Lakes Research Center may help to change that.

While side scan sonar and multibeam bathymetry information has been, and is still, collected by ships using towed sonar or hull mounted systems, the addition of ultra-high resolution sonar and bathymetry on small and cost effective AUV platforms opens up an even wider and more complete survey in many cases. In some instances ships surveys can be limited because of the location of the underwater pipeline. Surveying in busy ports, harbors and channelscan be troublesome. Other times ship size can limit potential survey areas, neglecting either too deep or too shallow water due to ship draft, weather or equipment constraints.

Recently the Great Lakes Research Center (GLRC) at Michigan Technological University, deployed an OceanServerIver AUV with an EdgeTech 2205 combined Side Scan Sonar and Bathymetry system with the goal of imaging an underwater pipeline. The results were impressive. The autonomous system coupled with the co-registered side scan sonar/ bathymetry system was perfect for the task. Side scan sonar and bathymetry images were used to check the location and integrity of the pipeline over a long and varied terrain. Using side scan sonar co-registered with bathymetry the team was able to view intricate details about the pipeline and the bottom topography, helping accomplish their mission.

With the goal of research, education and outreach, the GLRC continues to develop and demonstrate how new technology can benefit those that work in and around underwater infrastructures. With the recent addition of the OceanServerIver AUV outfitted with an EdgeTech 2205 high resolution AUV-based sonar the GLRC has expanded their capabilities once again. Recognizing the importance of this new tool and how it can assist with the challenges listed above, Garry Kozak of EdgeTech noted, “It is exciting to see our equipment used by groups like the GLRC as they research, educate and facilitate all-important tasks such as innovated approaches to underwater pipeline inspection. This activity is clearly educationally, environmentally and economically strategic for all stakeholders in the community and beyond.”

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