The Theseus Autonomous Underwater Vehicle: A Canadian Success Story
Defence R and D Canada - Atlantic Dartmouth, Nova Scotia Canada
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Over the past five years, International Submarine Engineering Research and the Esquimalt Defence Research Detachment of the Defence Research Establishment Atlantic have worked together to develop a large autonomous underwater vehicle, named Theseus, for laying optical fiber cables in ice-covered waters. In trials and missions conducted in 1996, this vehicle showed impressive capabilities. It was able to lay a fiber optic cable in a completely autonomous mode for a distance of 200 km under Arctic sea-ice and then return to the launch station for recovery. It demonstrated a navigational error of less than 0.5 of the distance traveled, and cross-track error was reducible to 0.05. It operates in either depth-keeping mode or bottom-following mode, was designed to operate at a maximum depth of 1000 m, and has operated at a depth of 425 m. The vehicle is equipped with an inertial navigation unit and Doppler sonar speed sensor for autonomous navigation, a forward-looking obstacle avoidance sonar, an acoustic homing system, and acoustic transponders for use with surface tracking stations. An acoustic telemetry system enables communication with Theseus from surface stations, and an optical telemetry system is used for system monitoring while Theseus is laying optical fiber cable. All sub-systems are controlled by an M68030 based sensor integration and control computer. Although the vehicle is currently configured for cable laying, other missions could be accommodated with minor changes to the payload section of the vehicle. Theseus qualities of covertness, long endurance and precise navigation make possible such tasks as long base-line oceanographic data collection, remote route surveys, remote mine hunting, the rapid deployment of acoustic and non-acoustic surveillance systems, and even the towing of mobile sensor arrays.