Design and Fabrication of Nereid-UI: A Remotely Operated Underwater Vehicle for Oceanographic Access Under Ice


The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and collaborators from the Johns Hopkins University and the University of New Hampshire are developing for the Polar Science Community a remotely-controlled underwater robotic vehicle capable of being tele-operated under ice under remote real-time human supervision. The Nereid Under-Ice (Nereid-UI) vehicle will enable exploration and detailed examination of biological and physical environments at glacial ice-tongues and ice-shelf margins, delivering high-definition video in addition to survey data from on board acoustic, chemical, and biological sensors. Preliminary propulsion system testing indicates the vehicle will be able to attain standoff distances of up to 20 km from an ice-edge boundary, as dictated by the current maximum tether length. The goal of the Nereid-UI system is to provide scientific access to under-ice and ice-margin environments that is presently impractical or infeasible. FIBER-OPTIC TETHER: The heart of the Nereid-UI system is its expendable fiber optic telemetry system. The telemetry system utilizes many of the same components pioneered for the full-ocean depth capable HROV Nereus vehicle, with the addition of continuous fiber status monitoring, and new float-pack and depressor designs that enable single-body deployment. POWER SYSTEM: Nereid-UI is powered by a pressure-tolerant lithium-ion battery system composed of 30 Ah prismatic pouch cells, arranged on a 90 volt bus and capable of delivering 15 kW. The cells are contained in modules of 8 cells, and groups of 9 modules are housed together in oil-filled plastic boxes. The power distribution system uses pressure tolerant components extensively, each of which have been individually qualified to 10 kpsi and operation between -20 C and 40 C. THRUSTERS: Nereid-UI will employ eight identical WHOI-designed thrusters, each with a frameless motor, oil-filled and individually compensated, and designed for low-speed (500 rpm max) direct drive. We expect an end-to-end propulsive efficiency of between 0.3 and 0.4 at a transit speed of 1 m/s based on testing conducted at WHOI. CAMERAS: Video imagery is one of the principal products of Nereid-UI. Two fiber-optic telemetry wavelengths deliver 1.5 Gb/s uncompressed HDSDI video to the support vessel in real time, supporting a Kongsberg OE14-522 hyperspherical pan and tilt HD camera and several utility cameras. PROJECT STATUS: The first shallow-water vehicle trials are scheduled for September 2013. The trials are designed to test core vehicle systems particularly the power system, main computer and control system, thrusters, video and telemetry system, and to refine camera, lighting and acoustic sensor placement for piloted and closed-loop control, especially as pertains to working near the underside of ice. Remaining vehicle design tasks include finalizing the single-body deployment concept and depressor, populating the scientific sensing suite, and the software development necessary to implement the planned autonomous return strategy. Final design and fabrication for these remaining components of the vehicle system will proceed through fall 2013, with trials under lake ice in early 2014, and potential polar trials beginning in 2014-15. SUPPORT: NSF OPP (ANT-1126311), WHOI, James Family Foundation, and George Frederick Jewett Foundation East.

Publication Date


Journal or Conference Title

Fall Meeting, American Geophysical Union (AGU)

Conference Date

9-13 December, 2013

Publisher Place

San Francisco, CA

Document Type

Conference Proceeding