Mutschler describes a key application for the new system: “In the case of safety of navigation, vessel captains and pilots regularly assess the risk level of entering a port utilizing charted information that includes hydrographic data on bottom depths and material type.” They may decide, he explains, to allow the keel to be plowed some 30-90 cm through a sandy or muddy bottom and thereby promptly deliver time-sensitive cargo, as opposed to waiting for high-tide conditions. “This is not an unusual practice. Often, keel drag marks are noticeable in many port entrances such as in New Orleans, Rotterdam or Jeddah.” Here, extremely accurate bottom depth figures as well as bottom type are clearly critical for daily risk assessments by ship navigators.
But it isn't just about oceans and port bottoms. Hydrologists and engineers just as often require accurate water-depth measurements and information about sub-bottom stratigraphy in shallow freshwater lakes and rivers. Specific applications can vary from estimating available water volumes to the design of new structures such as bridges or pipeline crossings.
In many small lakes, weed-infested waters and fast-flowing streams, it can be quite difficult to get reliable data on water depth or to define bottom and sub-bottom structures. Meanwhile, the use of large boats with conventional acoustic sounding equipment is often not possible, which is where compact and flexible solutions like Mutschler's kayak come in.
“Typical applications requiring increased focus on least-depth mapping include those for waterways and infrastructure,” he says, “for safety of navigation to support commerce, bottom depths and characterization for fisheries, scour mapping for coastal wind farms, bathymetric morphological processes for geological sciences, detailed bottom detections for archeological assessments, etc.” All of these require highly detailed and repeatable bathymetric mapping. Such projects are often located in remote areas and therefore require mobilization efforts that can be greatly simplified with a purpose-built and easy-to-use kit.”
Peter Koldgaard Eriksen says the new system has been very successful. NORBIT Subsea is currently in the process of reallocating jobs and hiring new people, scaling up to meet the challenge of market production. Eriksen says, “We want to do everything we can to make sure we get into the market as soon as possible. We feel like Subsea is entering a new phase of life.”
“But,” he cautions, “the world is changing as we speak, especially in the area of motion sensor components and microelectronics in general. Established players are used to working on longer time schedules, but this war is going to be won by the people who are most adaptive and quick." Eriksen added, “We are going to see a rapid evolution. We need to keep going, to keep looking at new sensors, new systems and new approaches, left and right.”
What NovAtel and Seahorse Geomatics have accomplished represents a major step forward, and a clear demonstration of how the right partnership can find powerful and innovative solutions to some of the world's oldest problems.