Dredging & Marine Construction

Autonomous Survey Vessel Increases Efficiency on MDVP’s Portable Dredging Projects

Mobile Dredging & Video Pipe Inc. (MDVP) of Chester, Pennsylvania, purchased a Seafloor Systems EchoBoat-ASV™ last September.  Referring to the ASV as a “drone boat”, Project Manager Stephen Simpson said that the company used it on three projects in the remaining four months of 2017 and is poised to make wide use of it in 2018.

“The drone boat allows us to quickly and efficiently collect accurate survey data throughout an entire dredge project in a cost-effective manner, while preventing over-dredging and keeping projects on schedule,” said Simpson.

The company does maintenance dredging and environmental improvement projects in locations where portable equipment is a must.

The EchoBoat-ASV is an autonomously controlled hydrographic survey platform designed for use in hard-to-access areas.  The compact, lightweight EchoBoat is easy to deploy to any job site.  A two-person team can transport it in a pickup truck to the water’s edge and lift the approximately 100-pound unit between them and set it down in the water.

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The boat is made from non-corrosive materials for use in fresh or salt water.  Survey equipment installed on the boat includes a Pico BM multibeam system, Automap, HYPACK (including Hypack Survey and Dredgepack), an Applanix 115 Inertial Guidance System and Valeport sound velocity probe.  Transducers are mounted in alcoves under the bottom deck.  It is equipped with dual-DC thrusters and an internal plug-and-play survey deck for installing the sonar and navigation monitoring equipment.

Simpson uses a remote control and his laptop from a nearby position on shore or in a small boat.  The data are collected on the EchoBoat and offloaded to the laptop at the end of the survey.

The job can be run by remote control or on autonomous, pre-programmed survey lines.

“It’s just as if you’re in a manned survey boat,” Simpson said.

Steve Simpson

The EchoBoat allows MDVP to collect current dredge bottom conditions prior to the start of the project to check for debris and other obstacles the owner’s pre-check might have missed.  Simpson does periodic checks as the dredging progresses to ensure the coverage and grade are correct, allowing them to confidently go to the next section of the project.

Once he had the EchoBoat up and running last fall, Simpson used it on two maintenance dredging projects on the Intracoastal Waterway in Neptune Township and Ocean City, New Jersey.

Because these were in open channels, he set up line files and used the autonomous mode.  The EchoBoat ran the lines automatically while he monitored the job from land.

A third contract was to clear siltation from around water intake pipes on the Schuylkill River in Philadelphia.  This job included dredging 4,000 cubic yards of sediment in a half circle area, 200 feet long by 100 feet wide, using an 8-inch Ellicott hydraulic dredge. Simpson positioned himself in various places – in a small boat, on a wall of the intake structure, and on the bank, remaining about 100 feet away from the EchoBoat. Using the remote-control function, he was able to steer the EchoBoat around sticks and other floating debris and to survey on shorter, irregular lines.

The owner was able to use this survey data to help confirm dredging results with the project engineer.

Simpson feels that he will be able to move from project to project to monitor progress more efficiently while programing unlimited projects into the system.

“I can get to a jobsite and back in less than a day,” he said. This will enable him to monitor multiple ongoing projects.

The boat provides real-time quality surveying results that benefit all parties involved with dredging projects we encounter, said Simpson. A lot of the industry is using single beam survey equipment, but the multibeam system has been able to provide us a higher quality product, he said.  It gives 100 percent coverage, so there is no guesswork.  It increases reliability and confidence, he said.

“We are looking forward to utilizing the drone boat on numerous projects this year.” he said.

Mobile Dredging & Video Pipe Inc. works across the U.S. while focusing in the East Coast.