This document describes 4D Nav’s remote survey solution for offshore operations. The value proposition is to reduce risk and costs by having one surveyor execute complex tasks on several offshore vessels simultaneously from an onshore network operations center (NOC). The system has been developed to an exceptional degree of maturity and features high level spatial awareness, as well as video and voice across multiple vessels allowing an operator onshore to monitor and participate in all details of offshore operations.
The cost per vessel is $375/day for remote survey, video and voice capabilities. Communications link costs vary but are typically about $100/day.
The system is designed to allow an operator in a network operation center onshore to control several vessels survey systems simultaneously by using a highly organized user interface to achieve extreme telepresence to the vessels.
The NOC-based operator is presented with several monitors connected to a computer running 4D Nav’s Survey Monitoring Dashboard (SMD) integrated with 4D Nav’s NavView software application. Headphones or a push-to-talk microphone/speaker console are available for voice communications.
One monitor is used to display several instances of the SMD application with each instance communicating with a single vessel. The SMD provides details on the operation of the network links, the computer on the vessel, the devices connected to the computer and the calculations executing in real-time on the vessel’s NavView system. The SMD also provides alarm annunciation notifying the operator when a vessel requests intervention. When intervention is required, pressing a button on the SMD opens a mirrored NavView system is instantiated on another monitor.
NavView provides an interactive user interface that integrates survey data, video and voice communications. From these screens the operator has full control over a specific NavView system on a vessel. All details available in the offshore system are displayed at the NOC system, allowing the operator to add, edit and delete operational information such as waypoints, pipelines and survey lines. The NOC displays are set up independently of the offshore displays but may be synchronized if desired.
Video displays are an essential part of achieving telepresence on a vessel. The video switching capability is a key component of the remote system, which provides a cost-effective solution by integrating up to eight video feeds over the VSAT link. Bandwidth optimization is essential to minimizing costs, and since there may be several cameras of interest on a vessel, the 4D Nav remote survey solution has a provision allowing the operator to select which cameras are transmitted over the VSAT link.
Figure 3 demonstrates the simplicity of the video switching control. In this example, the operator has switched the video channel in the window above from Channel 1 to Channel 2. Figure 4 Channel 2 video stream transmitted over the VSAT link back to shore. Limiting the use of bandwidth by transmitting only the channels of interest rapidly accumulates link charge savings. The decision of which channels to transmit to shore is made by the onshore operator.
Voice communications are facilitated via industry-standard Clear-Com systems, which are generally already installed on most vessels. At the NOC the operator may use headphones or a professional-quality speaker/microphone console to participate in the live operations discussions taking place at the vessel. If the vessel is equipped with a non-party-line system, the specific Clear-Com station on the vessel to be communicated with may be selected via a dropdown in the Clear-Com window.
In addition to fixed stations on the vessel, the system supports a camera feed from a chest camera worn by an individual and Clear-Com communications via radio. This feature provides dynamic audio-visuals as the operator moves around the vessel. In Figure 6 the operator has selected the port ROV station from the dropdown and has initiated the PTT button to communicate and offer guidance for position fixes on the structure shown in Figure 4 Channel 2.
The remote survey system is made up of several subsystems that consist of the following: network communications, video, voice, survey data, data center and network operations center. These are described below.
Communications from the vessel to shore is handled by the nCentric Hyperbox 2 hardware. This may be interfaced to a vessel’s VSAT terminal or another wide-area communications link if available. The system may be interfaced to multiple networks, and in cases where low-cost (i.e. private LTE) links are available for part of the time, it will automatically route through the lowest cost available link.
The video subsystem is part of the nCentric Hyperbox 2 hardware and contains eight analog inputs plus one digital input/output. All video streams are compressed before being transmitted over the network communications link. This, plus the subsystem’s unique capability to switch the channels being transmitted over the network communications link under remote control from shore combine to dramatically reduce the required bandwidth. All video channels may be recorded locally in high resolution.
Offshore vessels used for operations have standardized on Clear-Com as the technology of choice for voice communications between the bridge, ROV, survey and other stations. A Clear-Com voice server running at the Data Center opens direct voice channels connecting operators at the NOC into the party-line communications channel on any desired platform and station. This allows remote operators to interact with all members of an ongoing operation in real-time. The Clear-Com server enables connection of party line audio devices over LAN, WAN, or internet IP infrastructures. Cellular phones can also be mapped for routing of voice straight to cell phones.
Onboard the vessels, survey data consisting of vessel GPS, Gyro, MRU, USBL and any multitude of surface and sub surface positioning sensors are interfaced to a computer running 4D Nav’s NavView software. This is connected to the Hyperbox 2 to provide real-time updates onshore during operations.
The data center serves as the hub of the system and provides a secure communications link to the network communications link provider. It includes a video server to enable multiple users to view the same stream and recording capabilities. A database replication technology is used to synchronize the survey project data, allowing multiple users to interact while incurring minimal bandwidth overhead.
The onshore data center installation enables the following services:
A network operations center can be established at any 3rd party office to monitor and intervene during offshore operations. The Monitor Dashboard App is a top-level monitoring system that allows the NOC to receive real-time updates of network statistics/health and monitor real-time devices. Figure 11 displays three instances of the Monitor Dashboard App monitoring three vessels simultaneously. The Monitor Dashboard allows shore-based operators to easily assess a system’s overall performance using minimal bandwidth.
Details of the offshore survey system may be accessed through a dedicated NavView instance, which may be launched on-demand from the Monitor Dashboard App.
NavView provides operators at the remote NOC with three distinct services:
Multi-vessel applications are supported for special projects that require vessel to vessel communications and real-time updates within a project field. Two inter-vessel communication options are available: mesh networks; and VSAT to VSAT connectivity routed from vessel to vessel. The mesh network provides cost savings over a VSAT solution but has limitations on connectivity distances (~10KM). Conversely, the VSAT network costs more operate but provides connections over long distances. An example of multi-vessel applications can be seen in Figure 13 Multi-Vessel Radio Mesh Network and Figure 14 Multi Vessel VSAT Network.
4D Nav’s Remote Survey Solution is an intelligent integration of state-of-the-art software and hardware bringing remote telepresence to offshore survey operations. Real-time survey data, video and two-way audio communications services combine to provide real value by injecting shore-based experts into the offshore survey operations for monitoring, quality control, diagnostics or intervention. Months of field trials have proven the system’s utility, efficiency and reliability.