An advanced ‘smart technology’ marine robot designed and built by University of Limerick researchers was recently deployed to explore wrecks of The Aud and WW1 U-Boat, UC42 outside Cork Harbour.
The Aud was scuttled by its crew while under Royal Navy escort to Cork Harbour after it was prevented from landing guns in 1916 and the UC42 sank in 1917 while laying mines. With the help of the Irish Naval Service, the UL Marine Robotics team deployed the advanced Smart Remotely Operated Vehicle called ROV Latis which has patented technology features, from the LÉ Eithne to undertake submarine archaeological investigations of wrecks off the Cork Coast.
Research Leader, Dr Daniel Toal, UL said; “The ROV Latis allows us to explore in detail the wrecks which have been on the sea-bed for nearly 100 years. The ROV Latis brought back high quality imagery which has been used to build a detailed 3D model of the UC42.”
The investigations entailed high resolution multi-beam sonar survey combined with video survey with instruments aboard the ROV Latis platform. The precision flight control of ROV Latis and advanced auto pilot control capabilities developed by team member Dr Edin Omerdic, allowed the robot to follow precise transects for multibeam sonar and video imaging of the wrecks. This fidelity in flight control offered by ROV Latis enabled acquisition of high quality imagery which was used to build the three dimensional model of the UBoat on the seabed.
The expedition also involved Irish Naval Service (ROV) team and dive unit for training and trials of the INS Cherokee ROV alongside the advanced ROV Latis systems. Speaking about the new one of a kind smart ROV operating systems implemented on ROV Latis called Ocean Rings, Dr Toal said; “This technology now includes state-of-the-art control systems, precision navigation and positioning capabilities. The operating environment in the ROV Control Cabin aboard ship gives the surface pilot and scientists an immersive reality transparent ocean view of the underwater world as if they were sitting on the submerged vehicle and the ocean was made transparent well beyond the limits of video imagery in the underwater world.“
This is a unique prototype and the UL Marine Robotics team are currently commercialising the technology. The archaeological aspects of the survey are supported in part by funding from the Environment Fund of the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, while other aspects of the development have been supported by Science Foundation Ireland, the Marine Institute, Enterprise Ireland and EU funded projects.
The U-boat location was recently discovered by Eoghan Kieran of Moore Marine during a geophysical survey of the area. The archaeological wreck investigations aspects of the robotic survey aboard LÉ Eithne were carried out by the UL team together with Moore Marine and Dr Garret Duffy of the Department of Earth and Ocean Sciences, NUI Galway. The team was also joined by Dr Martin Dean of Adus Ltd in Scotland, a specialist company working in advanced geophysical survey of wrecks and submerged structures.
This off shore collaboration of the UL Marine Robotics team and the INS represents the first such team-up with others to follow in on-going subsea ocean vehicle research in Search And Recovery (SAR) operations and other underwater intervention tasks. The INS is a partner in IMERC (with UCC and CIT) and the UL robotics team is collaborating with IMERC partners in ocean technology, robotics and renewable ocean energy. The UL team aboard LÉ Ethne included Dr Daniel Toal, Dr Edin Omerdic, Dr Gerard Dooly, Mr Liam Miller and Mr Joseph Coleman, and together they have a wealth of experience in ocean engineering research, submarine robotic operations, technical diving, marine imaging, sensor technologies and workboat operations. For further information see the weblink for the Research team at UL: www.ROVLatis.ie