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Marine-i helps Seiche develop the autonomous surface vessels of the future

Seiche Ltd was originally formed in 1996 to undertake underwater acoustics research projects. Over recent years the company has diversified and now has three main spheres of activity within water technology: monitoring, training, and autonomous vehicle development. With its headquarters in Bradworthy, Devon and with further offices in the UK, USA, South Africa and Sweden, Seiche is able to service a growing international client base.

Phil Johnston heads up Business Development for the AutoNaut, which is their flagship Unmanned Surface Vessel (USV). The AutoNaut is a wave-powered USV which can operate at extreme range and in harsh sea conditions, enabling it to handle a variety of existing sea-based tasks much more cost effectively.

Phil explains: “The AutoNaut is a major focus of our current activity. As a platform to carry sensors, and gain the all-important data, it’s a real game-changer in how we can provide solutions for clients.  The AutoNaut has a really wide range of applications which span the oil and gas industries, marine renewables and marine science, as well as defence and surveillance operations.

“Our new generation of 5 metre AutoNauts feature the latest technology to meet these challenges. We’ve enhanced the wave foil technology at the heart of the propulsion system and developed the engineering. It’s a robust long duration vessel, so it has to be able to handle tough sea conditions. The AutoNaut, especially this new 5metre model, is very versatile with the space and power to carry multiple sensors and complete a broad scope of tasks.”

Seiche have benefitted from specialist assistance and advice from the Marine-i project partners, including leading-edge technical knowledge from the experts at the University of Exeter, the University of Plymouth and project planning advice from Marine-i partner, the Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult.

Phil says: “The input from Marine-i has been extremely helpful as we scope out the future potential for this innovative product. The next vital phase of our development will be the creation of a ‘Command and Control Centre’ for our USVs. Located in Cornwall, this operations base will oversee the remote operation of our vessels and also gather and analyse all the data that they transmit back.

“This will involve the creation of one new job initially, but I see the number of jobs created expanding as more and more AutoNauts are deployed. Overseas operations anywhere in the world can be overseen and monitored safely from land, such as at our base in the south west. Here again, the Marine-i team have been instrumental in helping us to formulate our plans as well as putting us in touch with other support, such as through the ‘Invest in Cornwall’ programme.

“Marine autonomous systems are creating a whole new industry of innovative sea-based operations. High-tech, land-based jobs will follow as the need to manage and monitor these autonomous systems increases. We are at the forefront of an industry that could see explosive growth over the coming years, an industry in which Cornwall could become a world leader.”

Phil concludes: “Marine-i is helping to create a new momentum behind marine technology. The marine industry in the South West is very well established and with a tremendous depth of knowledge and expertise.  By embracing research and innovation, the Marine-i project is helping to take this leading-edge knowledge and translate it into viable commercial applications. Marine-i is playing an important part in creating the marinetech industries of the future and Seiche is proud to be at the forefront of this.”