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Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) has signed a collaboration agreement with Ocean Aero for the Triton Autonomous Underwater and Surface Vehicle (AUSV). KAUST will use Ocean Aero's Triton to enhance its ongoing research of the Red Sea.
The deal will see Ocean Aero and Saudi Shelf Subsea Solutions bring the third-generation Triton AUSV, the world's first and only autonomous and environmentally powered ocean vehicle that can both sail and submerge allowing it to conduct long-term ocean observation and data collection missions.
The Triton uses both solar panels and sails to spend months at sea on its own compared to regular AUSVs that require handling every day to survive at sea. The solar panels can collect up to 200 watts of power and the autonomous Triton also features a 4kWh battery pack. The Triton uses the Iridium, Wi-Fi, 900Mhz, and Mesh communication systems to stay in touch with its handlers.
The Triton AUSV from Ocean Aero measures 4 metres (14.5 feet) long and its sails extend 3 metres (10 feet) above the water line. The distance from the bottom of the keel of the Triton to the water line measures 1.5 metres (5 feet), while the width of the AUSV's hull is 0.8 metres (2.66 feet).
At the surface, the Triton AUSV can be left on its own for over 3 months and it can stay for over 5 days underwater. The Triton has a top speed of 5 knots (9.26km/h) on the surface and can hit speeds of up to 3.7 kilometres when travelling under the waves. The Triton can dive to a maximum depth of 100 metres (328 feet).
The King Abdullah University of Science and Technology's Red Sea Research Centre will customise these autonomous vehicles with sensors which in turn will help them acquire new data to understand the special features of the Red Sea including its biodiverse habitats and species.
In addition to this KAUST's new collaboration with Ocean Aero will also help enhance the capabilities and knowledge of the University's Coastal and Marine Resources Core Lab in marine robotics and operation. This claims KAUST will help enable the future development of the University's own Autonomous Underwater Vehicles.
Speaking about the new partnership, Daniel Acevedo-Feliz, Director of KAUST Core Labs and Research Infrastructure said, "In response to the United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021-2030) and Saudi Arabia's Vision 2030, KAUST is further dedicating itself to Red Sea research. The KAUST-Ocean Aero collaboration is one of many efforts that reflect this goal. We are excited to have Ocean Aero as partners, as not only their vehicles but also their shared expertise will significantly advance this project."
The collaborations between the KAUST and the American AUSV manufacturer begin immediately. Ocean Aero already has a number of Tritons stationed at KAUST and more of these AUSVs are on the way to help explore the Red Sea.
Thoughts About KAUST & Ocean Aero's Partnership
The new KAUST partnership with Ocean Aero will see the University deploy multiple Triton AUSVs as it looks to decipher the secrets of the Red Sea. The Triton AUSV should help KAUST and the world better understand what happens under the waves of the Red Sea, which is one of the most heavily used waterways on the planet.