Heron: An unmanned surface vessel with the automated water sampler

Meet Heron: An unmanned surface vessel
Meet Heron: An unmanned surface vessel

Well, we often heard a lot about aerial and underwater drones, which also known as an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), but the one that can travel on the surface of the water… umm, not so much. Drones, that travel on the water surface can be quite useful for the researchers or for the rescue mission.

Meet Heron- An unmanned surface vessel

Here I got a vehicle called Heron USV (unmanned surface vessel) made by Canadian manufacturer Clearpath Robotics. Heron is a portable, mid-sized surface vessel. Its catamaran design includes anti-fouling thrusters, an incredibly shallow profile, and built-in GPS for easy access positioning data.

Additionally, it utilizes open-source software and is able to autonomously find its way around bodies of water, carrying up to 10 kg (22 lb) of sensors or other gear as it does so.

It is able to autonomously find its way around bodies of water.
It is able to autonomously find its way around bodies of water.

The vehicle weights around 28 kg (62 lbs) and measures 1.35 meters long (53 inches). The Heron propelled by two battery-powered jet thrusters located in each of its pontoons. These take it up to a top speed of 3.3 knots (6 km/h or 3.8 mph). And as they are bidirectional, they also allow it to turn on the spot or go in reverse.

The unmanned surface vehicle comes with a payload bay for mounting submerged sensors or equipment on deck. The folding pontoons and quick-swappable battery make transport, launch, and retrieval a quick and easy process.

Applications:

The Heron is partially designed to be used by the researchers who are developing autonomous aquatic robotic vehicles and don’t want to bother with the hassle and expense of using full-size passenger-capable boats for their studies.

The robots work in the most demanding environments by researchers all over the globe.
The robots work in the most demanding environments by researchers all over the globe.

It does have many other possible applications also. It can be used by the municipal authorities to measure sediment buildup in stormwater runoff ponds.

Previously, they would send out a guy in a boat, with a GPS and a long stick. Now, all they have to do is launch the Heron into the water. It’s equipped with sonar, and it can visit different points based on GPS, and sample (the depth) at those points.

Moreover, the craft can be used for surveillance, or it can be equipped with a water-sampling system, in which tubes reaching down into the water draw samples that are stored in syringes for subsequent lab analysis.

‘The Heron Basic Package has everything you need to get started with research in aquatic environments. The platform provides access to communication ports as well as onboard power supplies. A powerful embedded computer system comes pre-installed with Linux and ROS; all component ROS drivers are installed and pre-configured,’ the company says.