Technology Trend: the Z-Boat

Author: Charter

Drones have become the latest tech trend in construction, allowing for breathtaking imagery and more impressively a phenomenal amount of data. This type of unmanned technology is talking the industry’s needs from the air, but what about the waters? Teledyne Oceanscience has developed an answer with their Unmanned Service Vehicle (USV) the Z-boat. This pioneering technology allows surveyors to perform work on the water in a safe, cost effective, and efficient manner.

Charter recently added two Z-boats to our list of equipment and participated in a demonstration day with Teledyne Oceanscience. Project Engineer, Shane Gray, was able to participate and shares his experience and excitement with the innovative technology.

Since I’ve joined Charter just over a year ago, I’ve come to realize that it reinvests in the brilliant and diverse group of people that make up the company. This includes introducing the latest technologies, allowing people to do their jobs safely and more efficiently. Unmanned surface vehicles (USVs) used for shallow water hydrography is one such technology that assists surveyors on dredging projects.

Surveying is an essential component for almost every earthwork project and can certainly become more complicated when you add a body of water to the mix. Solid, dry land is much easier to conceptualize from a surveying standpoint – the surface is visible and tangible; in many marine environments, the existing ground below the water’s surface is not visible, thus difficult to visualize even for those with years of experience and/or keen spatial awareness. Historically, hydrography has been executed by either a single surveyor with a pole-mounted GPS unit and a pair of wading boots or by a manned survey boat. The single surveyor wading waters can be cost-effective, but is limited to shallow waters under safe conditions. The manned survey boat becomes less effective in shallow water and requires a significant initial capital investment. This led the US Geological Survey (USGS) to challenge Teledyne Oceanscience to develop a USV that would capture all needs of a surveyor, while minimizing costs.

Representatives from Teledyne Oceanscience recently prepared a demonstration of their USV for survey, the Z-Boat, after Charter had purchased two of them for active marine projects. The demonstration covered every aspect of the boat, from its electrical and mechanical make-up to its autonomous capabilities. The Z-boat will no doubt become a fixture for Charter’s team of surveyors, serving as a solution for collecting key hydrographic data, especially when accessibility is limited.

The boat functions so that data is directly transmitted via radio to the surveyor’s laptop, so that he/she may track the boat’s location and readings live on programs such as HYPACK. The user also has the option to allow the boat to log the data on board, serving as a back-up. With three 24-volt batteries on board, the boat can churn out four hours of surveying under typical conditions; the user also has the ability to change out the batteries in order to minimize down-time. With a specified range of about 1000 meters, it’s difficult to imagine a scenario in which the Z-boat would not cover the required survey area. Perhaps one of the more advanced features is the boat’s capacity to work autonomously, following a pre-defined, custom path. With safety always at the forefront of Charter’s initiatives, it’s fitting that the z-boat allows the user to override auto-control at any point in time, avoiding costly collisions.

It is no surprise that remote survey boats are increasingly becoming surveyors’ method of choice for conducting bathymetric surveys. The boat represents a versatile alternative to traditional manned survey boats while minimizing up-front costs and not compromising results. These attributes coincide with Charter’s promise to provide clients top-notch service with an emphasis on quality and safety.

I can’t wait to start using these on upcoming projects!

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