Remote Controlled, Unmanned Boat Offers Safer Solution to Hydrographic Surveys

Anne Borden

Water is becoming more of a precious resource every year. From the ability to handle storm runoff, store water for public and private use, manage areas for recreation, and even assist in navigation, the necessity to accurately determine water volume and depth has become a growing project requirement throughout the Midwest.

The methods survey firms use to meet these project requirements has also grown thanks to today’s technology. The days of row boats and manual sounding chains have given way to single and multi-beam echo sounders on regular watercraft and even remote-controlled watercraft – which at times is a better and safer solution.

This remote-controlled method is possible thanks to Teledyne Marine’s Z-boat technology. DLZ has incorporated this technology for years. The Z-Boat performs hydrographic survey work in bodies of water where access and shallow depth can cause major issues in watercraft mobilization. It is a safe and many times faster solution in troubled waters.

The Z-Boat is approximately 3ft x 5ft, made of plastic, has two electric outboard motors and weighs 150lbs once loaded with batteries and equipment. Using dual frequency beam echo sounders to allow for readings on both hard and soft surfaces, survey data is transmitted to an on-shore field computer in real time using a radio link. Through GPS antennas and radios, field personnel can control the Z-Boat and monitor the data safely in real time.

Due to its small size and large variety of potential operating environments, the Z-Boat can be placed in the water either directly with a dolly or a crane and sling, as long as the water is at least 1ft deep.

The Z-Boat is often the safest option. In shallow bodies of water with a soft sediment bottom, it can be very hazardous for a person to walk out and get stuck. In some cases, the water may be contaminated. To reduce the potential of personnel exposure to hazardous materials, DLZ uses the Z-Boat which can be/ or which is then decontaminated afterwards. The Z-Boat can go up to 6mph and is a suitable choice for fast moving streams and rivers that may be more precarious on foot or in manned vessels. At times, there may not be an appropriate location to launch a larger survey vessel, in which case the Z-Boat is again the safer option.

A versatile boat, the Z-boat can meet a range of challenging hydrographic survey environments. With the capability to survey in conditions that could be hazardous to personnel, collect quality data, and keep our employees safe, the Z-Boat positions DLZ to safely deliver cutting edge solutions to our clients’ surveying needs.