The final phase of integration is field test and demonstration in the ocean environment. This requires support vessels and test ranges that are equipped to evaluate performance. In the West, the U.S. Navy and other agencies of the government are properly outfitted for operational testing. In addition, many commercial companies and universities have support vessels and can adequately conduct at-sea tests. The same is largely true of Europe. Russia and Ukraine have a wealth of support systems and ranges for at-sea testing, and clearly appreciate the need for proving the systems in the environment. Table 7.4 summarizes some of the support capabilities that were observed in Europe, Russia, and Ukraine.
While the WTEC team observed none of the field test capabilities at the European sites, it is well established that companies like Slingsby, Marconi, and IFREMER are well equipped and experienced at field testing. The companies have support vessels and test ranges.
Heriot-Watt University also has a long history of field testing the Angus class of ROVs. A new range is being installed by Heriot-Watt University in the Firth of Forth. It will allow acoustic propagation and communication studies in a real-time mode with the laboratory, which is some fifteen miles away. Linked by acoustics and microwave, the scientists and engineers in the laboratory will be able to monitor and influence the sensors and vehicles under test in the Firth.
Support vessels and test ranges are available for UV operation. In fact, Russia and Ukraine have an enviable fleet of dozens of research ships that are capable of operating manned and unmanned vehicles in any part of the world. These vessels are very large by Western standards, ranging up to 10,000 tons or more, and have the capability of long missions and great distances. They are well equipped for research and because of their size are able to carry large submersibles and large crews for research and operations. The team visited the Ikhtiandr, a medium-sized
Field Test and Demonstration Capabilities
Figure 7.4. Ikhtiandr and Sever-2 Submersibles
(4,000 t) converted fishing trawler with the 38.5 t Sever-2 manned submersible (see Figure 7.4). The size and stability of vessels like the Ikhtiandr allow over-the-side launch and recovery operations. As can be seen, the Sever-2 is stowed on the port side in a maintenance bay equipped with sliding doors to provide all weather maintenance. It is handled into the water with dual bridge cranes. The operators claim to routinely conduct launch and recovery operations in state 5 sea conditions.
The vessels that the team observed at Sevastopol were largely idle and poorly maintained due to funding problems. Some of the larger vessels owned by Shirshov Institute have been unable to continue operation and are being subleased for European passenger transportation until other funds become available. The personnel at Mariecoprom (see Mariecoprom site report in Appendix C) were anxious for partners in research in the Black Sea or anywhere the partner desires. The Ikhtiandr and Sever-2, fully crewed, would lease for about $500/day. Even with fuel and provisions as extra, this is a very low cost.