USV Surveys Fish Around Oil Platforms in North Sea

A robotic boat has been used for the first time to survey fish populations around oil platforms in the North Sea.

The survey was part of a project led by the University of Aberdeen, looking at the effects of decommissioning oil and gas structures on marine ecosystems. The USV, owned and operated by ocean data company XOCEAN, used sonar to collect data on fish numbers around several oil platforms off Scotland’s northeast coast.

XOCEAN’s USVs operate over the horizon, transiting unaccompanied hundreds of kilometers from shore, without the need for a mothership. Fitted with high-end commercial fisheries sensors, the USVs perform the same task as a crewed vessel but without the need to send a single person offshore. Instead, XOCEAN’s innovative platform brings the surveyor online in real time to collect and validate the data from anywhere in the world.

XOCEAN’s XO-450 USVs are around the size of an average car (4.5 m), allowing it to get within 10 m of a platform, significantly closer than a conventional ship.

The project, part of the UKRI-funded INSITE (Influence of Man-made Structures in the Ecosystem) program, aims to better understand the influence offshore structures have on commercial fish populations in the North Sea.

The project and the INSITE program will run until 2023, and the team will run similar surveys of more oil platforms using the USV next summer.

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