Coastal / Inshore

Seminar Session

Robotics and autonomous survey vehicles are the focus of this intriguing session. Attendees will learn how unmanned survey vessels are now enabling rapid capture of hydrographic survey data from lakes, rivers, harbours and shallow coastal or inland bodies of water. How photography from drones is enabling mission planning and detecting dangerous shoals ahead of survey from an autonomous craft.

Session Programme:

15:00 Tue 22   Theatre 3

The Robotics Revolution – bringing unmanned survey solutions to the industry

James Williams, Managing Director, Unmanned Survey Solutions

Traditionally, manned survey vessels are used for mapping these areas. But lakes and rivers, ports and harbours, shallow coastal or inland bodies of water can be hazardous to both personnel and equipment. Unmanned Survey Solutions Ltd provides a smarter solution. Using over 35 years of survey experience our ‘built by surveyors for surveyors’ approach has allowed us to create and build the USS Inception class Unmanned Survey Vessels (USV’s). These robust autonomous vessels are designedfor hydrographic surveys in enclosed, shallow, coastal and inland waters for the marine, scientific, commercial and environmental industries.

James has been working within the marine survey industry for over 20 years as a seismic navigator; dredging survey engineer, senior surveyor and survey consultant. He setup Swathe Services in 2004 and, along with a team of skilled survey professionals, James been supporting the industry through consultancy, product sales, equipment rental, personnel support and training. In 2015 James set up Unmanned Survey Solutions (USS) and embarked on a mission to design and build Unmanned Surface Vessels (USVs). After 2 years of intensive prototype designing and robust trials, the USS team launched the Inception Class USVs to meet the growing demand in maritime robotics. James has been the chairman of the south west region of the Hydrographic Society and currently sits on the Societies Education Committee. James is dedicated to pushing the boundaries of surveying to bring better solutions to survey professionals.

15:20 Tue 22   Theatre 3

The impact of autonomous surface and aerial vehicles for Coastal Monitoring and Engineering

Duncan Mallace, Managing Director, 4D Ocean

Driven mainly by the remarkable technological progress in Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) surveys and military requirements, 2017 proved to be the first year when it was possible to conduct a fully autonomous coastal survey for the bathymetry as well as the topography using a combination of Autonomous Surface Vehicle (ASV) and UAV.  ASVs and UAVs enable survey companies to reach coastal areas which have either been too hazardous or too shallow to reach with normal vessels or terrestrial means.  It is also possible to deploy an ASV directly from the shore at the survey location, rather than having to sail from the nearest port. This increases the efficiency of the survey as well as reducing the cost.  The UAV photography is essential for mission planning of the USV. Flying the UAV at low water enables dangerous shoals to be seen and therefore avoided. The shallow draft of the ASV means that if it can’t be seen in the UAV data it is too deep and therefore safe for the ASV.  4D Ocean was the first survey company to perform a fully autonomous survey and this presentation details the acquisition and processing methodologies, issues that were found and benefits that compared with traditional means. It presents the data and discusses improvements and future challenges.


Duncan Mallace is the Founder and Managing Director of 4D Ocean. Duncan is a graduate of the University of Newcastle Upon Tyne with a B.Sc in Surveying Science. Graduating in 1988 he spent two years land surveying before going to sea with Oceanscan in 1990. His offshore time was spent predominantly working with acoustics, either multibeam sonar for mapping and rock dumping or USBL/LBL for offshore construction survey. This led to him setting up the survey company NetSurvey in 2002 as a specialist high resolution survey company, which became part of MMT in 2011. Duncan was Head of Business Development at QPS from 2015 until April 2017 when he formed 4D Ocean. 4D Ocean are a specialist autonomous survey company conducting high resolution seabed mapping and topographic surveys using autonomous surface, aerial and underwater vehicles.

15:40 Tue 22   Theatre 3

Seminar TBC

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