Underwater robots to protect Canadian vessels

  • July 20, 2022
  • William Payne

Canadian firm Cellula Robotics has won an order from Innovative Solutions Canada to build a hovering autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) to protect the country’s naval vessels from hostile detection.

The AUV will allow Royal Canadian Navy vessels to measure their acoustic and magnetic signatures while at sea instead of having to travel to a special testing range for measurements.

With only two Canadian testing ranges in operation, they are a significant constraint on the country’s vessels’ range and effectiveness. Using the AUV, measurements and counter-measures can instead be carried out while the ship is operational and in transit over the ocean.

An AUV is the submarine equivalent of a UAV, or drone. The Cellula AUV will be used to measure ships’ acoustic and magnetic signatures. Measuring magnetic and acoustic signatures are especially important for naval vessels, as these can expose a ship to detection by another navy’s submarines, vessels, aircraft, mines or oceanic sensor systems.

Degaussing a ship to minimise its magnetic signature can be carried out while travelling on open seas. However, it requires measurement of a ship’s magnetic signature first, as the degaussing is set to the exact reverse of a ship’s current magnetic signature.

The new AUV, known as Imotus-S, will build on Cellula’s existing commercial Imotus AUV. It will be configured with an Ocean Sonics hydrophone and an Ocean Floor Geophysics self-compensating magnetometer.

Imotus-S will test the ability to be deployed from a marine vessel to provide magnetic and acoustic signature measurements in open water. Normally ships have to carry out such measurements in port or at a special testing range. The AUV should allow vessels on deployment to easily monitor their signatures in a timely manner without having to leave their maritime station. Degaussing can then be carried out accurately while on deployment.

“We are thrilled to be working with the Department of National Defence on testing our solution that will complement and extend current vessel signature management capabilities” said Jacqueline Nichols, Business Development. “With only two fixed ranges in Canada, Cellula hopes to reduce operational constraints where ships must travel to a range for measurement.”

The test programme for the Imotus-S system will allow for data obtained to be compared to traditional range measurements and pave the path to a shipborne, containerised solution in the form of a fleet currently under development at Cellula. The innovation is currently scheduled to be tested in Q4 2022 near Saanich, BC.