QUINCY, Mass., 31 May 2012. Marine services contractor Phoenix International Holdings Inc. in Largo, Md., needed an unmanned underwater vehicle (UUV) for underwater engineering and deep-ocean search and recovery. They found their solution from Bluefin Robotics Corp. in Quincy, Mass.
Phoenix bought a Bluefin-21 UUV from Bluefin Robotics to help the company with its undersea survey and search operations. Phoenix International Holdings perhaps is best known for recovering both flight recorders from Air France 447, the Airbus A330-200 widebody passenger jetliner that crashed into the Atlantic Ocean three years ago, killing all 228 aboard. The black boxes were located about 12,000 feet below the ocean's surface.
Phoenix also participates in underwater operations involving oil and gas exploration and production, telecommunications, U.S. and foreign government work, academic and industrial research, and media. Its services include air and mixed gas diving, autonomous diving systems (ADS), and undersea remotely operated vehicle (ROV) operations to depths exceeding 6,000 meters sea water (MSW).
Bluefin will deliver an off-the-shelf Bluefin-21 UUV rated to depths of nearly 5,000 feet, and may upgrade the UUV to depths of nearly 15,000 feet during the submersible's next availability.
The Bluefin-21 is a modular UUV able to carry several kinds of sensors and payloads at once. Its design includes swappable payload sections and battery modules for reconfiguring its mission in the field. Operators can access subsystems quickly for rapid turnaround.
The UUV's dead-reckoning navigation drift typically is less than 0.1 percent of distance traveled. Target applications include detecting ocean mines and unexploded ordnance, as well as offshore survey, search and salvage, archaeology and exploration, and oceanography.
The Bluefin-21 UUV is 16.2 feet long, 21 inches in diameter, and weighs 1,650 pounds. The unmanned undersea vehicle can operate to depths as deep as 14,763 feet, and can operate for as long as 25 hours between battery recharges.
The undersea vehicle can store as much as 13.5 kilowatt-hours of energy in nine 1.5-kilowatt-hour batter packs. Powering the Bluefin-21 is a gimbaled ducted thruster, and navigation comes from inertial navigation, remote operation, and Global Positioning System (GPS) satellite navigation.
The UUV has an integrated GPS, radio-frequency, Iridium, and strobe antenna, and communicates with operators via radio frequency links, Iridium satellite communications, and acoustic communications systems.
The Bluefin-21 data capability includes a four-gigabyte flash drive for vehicle data storage. Standard payloads include the EdgeTech 2200-M 120/410 kHz side-scan sonar, EdgeTech DW-216 sub-bottom profiler, and Reson 7125 400 kHz multibeam echosounder.