Page 50: of Marine Technology Magazine (September 2019)

Autonomous Vehicle Operations

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Tech Files Thrusters

Blue Trail Engineering

Damon McMillan founded Blue Trail Engineer- ing as a new source for high-quality, low-cost un- derwater servo actuators, thrusters, and electrical connectors. Blue Trail Engineering’s 100-watt thrusters are optimized for high-ef? ciency appli- cations such as long-endurance ASVs and AUVs.

With magnetic shaft couplings and Swiss Maxon brushless motors, the thrusters are designed for months of continuous operation at depths of up to 300m.

Blue Robotics Inc.

Since its founding in 2014, Blue Robotics has existed to propel marine ro- botics. Starting with the T100 Thruster, launched through a Kickstarter cam- paign, its product line has now grown to more than 250 components, with a focus on cost-consciousness and open-source. Since 2014, the company has shipped hundreds of thousands of components, including more than 35,000 thrusters, to customers globally.

Blue Robotics’ product line spans a wide range of technology areas with a common theme of cost-consciousness, innovative design drawing inspiration from proven technologies, and extensive documentation and information. Its core technology is its patented thruster design, which is compact, inherently pressure tolerant and affordable. In addition to thrusters, the company of- fers actuators, watertight enclosures, buoyancy foam, sensors, lights, cables, control system electronics, sonars, and its ? agship product, the BlueROV2 subsea vehicle. It has also developed a special geared version of its thruster that is now in use on the WHOI Mesobot project.

Copenhagen Subsea A/S

The unique thruster technology of Copenhagen Subsea A/S is designed to help reduce downtime and improve the success rate of subsea operations. Copenhagen Subsea A/S saw that the market for underwater propulsion was ripe for a substantial re-thinking of technology, and its solution was to build a new product-line of electrical rim-driven thrusters. Building on the ring thruster technology, Copenhagen Subsea A/S has been able to develop and manufacture four thruster sizes – from VS as the smallest to VXL as the largest. The rim-driven thruster is a tight integration of motor parts within a housing.

The electrical motor takes the form of a thin ring that has permanent magnets ? xed to its rotor. This rotates within the stator arrangement of magnetic ? ux. The housing remains ? xed to its platform on the subsea vehicle. The propeller – the only moving part in the rim-driven thruster rotates within the nozzle, eliminating the need for a drive shaft and hub. Its innovative electrical design has no gears, only one moving part and bearings that make use of the surrounding seawater for lubrication. These unique features lead to signi? cantly reduced sound levels and minimal disturbance of surrounding marine life.

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