ISE Program Manager Jean Marc Laframboise and Electronics Technician Mei Jin close the hull of one of the Arctic Explorer AUVs prior to deployment. This work is part of a new operations support contract which the company recently received from the Canadian Department of National Defence (DND). The Explorer AUVs were built by International Submarine Engineering Ltd. and are jointly owned by Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) and DND. They are being used to help define the northern extent of Canada’s extended continental shelf under the provisions of Article 76 of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.
These autonomous underwater vehicles have a range of over 450 kilometres and a depth rating of 5000 meters. They are fitted with both a single beam and a multibeam echo-sounder. The single beam echo sounder provides accurate depth soundings while the multibeam provides seabed imagery in the vicinity of the spot soundings. This inthe AUV's Inertial Navigation Unit to provide scientists with a geographically-referenced data set of the seafloor.
The AUVs were tested in open waters near Vancouver BC this February to validate improvements made after the successful 2010 arctic operations. The vehicles will be deployed to the Canadian Icebreaker CCGS Louis S. St - Laurent for underway testing from St. Johns, NF in April 2011. In the late summer and fall of this year, the Louis S. St-Laurent and the American Icebreaker USCGC Healy will conduct survey operations in the high arctic. Operating from the Louis S. St-Laurent, a team of ISE, DND and NRCan personnel will use the AUVs to conduct seafloor mapping in areas where it is not possible to operate the icebreakers.
This will be ISE's 12th deployment to the Canadian arctic and its fifth season of actual under-ice AUV operations. To date, ISE has conducted over 2000 km of under-ice operations with AUVs reaching depths of 3160 meters. In the aggregate, ISE AUVs have completed over 120,000 kilometres of operations under water and under ice.