Subsea Expo

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World's Smallest and Smartest Survey System Cuts Costs

26 January 2011

An inshore cable survey system that cleverly senses the presence of cables, and uses a smaller ROV than usual, is set to significantly cut the cost of survey work in the burgeoning marine energy industry.

Costs can be cut from £500,000 for a conventional system to just £150,000 for this innovative new solution.

Cleverly, Submagnetix, a division of Innovatum, has integrated their system with the compact Saab Seaeye Falcon ROV to create a small and rapidly mobilised package that can be deployed from a small vessel, ready to survey all types of inshore and coastal submarine cables and pipelines.

Called SMARTRAK 9, it is the only system in the world that can sense cables carrying either AC or DC current; and cables carrying no current or signal at all. It can also sense steel pipelines.

The Seaeye Falcon ROV is fitted out with a Tritech Super SeaKing profiler system to provide high quality cross-sectional profile data of the seabed; to give underwater ROV positioning a Tritech Micron-Nav USBL navigation transducer along with pitch and roll sensing; an accurate flux gate compass; a high accuracy altimeter and a pressure sensor for depth.

For survey work, the Seaeye Falcon has the advantage of a low electrical and acoustic noise signature allowing for optimum survey sensor data.

It also has the power and manoeuvrability to give unrivalled stability in strong cross currents.

And with over 200 in use around the globe, the Falcon has the reliability of a trusted design that is packed with technological innovations including intelligent ‘plug-and-go’ electronics that enable different tooling to be added and changed as needed.

Surface equipment consists of three small rack units - one for the ROV controller, the other for the cable tracker and acoustics unit, and another for the surface navigation and video and event logger.

Only two people per shift are needed to launch and operate the system, with one controlling the ROV and the other the survey equipment.

The system creates comprehensive reports and charts showing accurate cable route and depth of burial along the route. This data is required by installation contractors, owners and regulatory authorities, to ensure that the cable is properly buried and not in danger of being exposed to damage.

The cable and pipeline tracking system uses three different methods to acquire target data.

A Passive Magnetic Mode is employed for pipeline survey work, using the natural field of steel pipes, and for cable survey, either by the weak natural fields of the cable or the stronger fields developed by specially magnetising the cable armour or strength member prior to cable lay.

An Active DC Mode is used for tracking live HVDC cables, and trans-oceanic telecommunication cables.

And the third is an Active AC Mode method of tracking that is primarily used for locating, tracking and surveying cables.

The SUBMAGNETIX division of Innovatum was established to carry out submarine cable surveys in shallow water depths from the beach down to 50 metres. This is the typical scenario for offshore wind farms, interconnector power cables and coastal communications cables.

Innovatum see their system having a great appeal to small survey companies, electric companies and those carrying out hydrographic studies, by saving them the cost of a large, bulky and expensive, power-hungry survey system.