SRS FUSION UUV takes IP68-sealed Fischer FiberOptic down to 1,000 feet (300 m)

Strategic Robotics Systems (SRS) uses the IP68-sealed Fischer FiberOptic single-fiber connector (FO1) in its revolutionary FUSION unmanned underwater vehicle (UUV). While tethered, the UUV can send data back to the topside team in real time – from down to 1,000 feet.

Strategic Robotic Systems, Inc. (SRS) was founded with the premise of developing the next generation in underwater systems by approaching the challenge from a fresh perspective. Its FUSION autonomous underwater vehicle is one of the few that operates as an Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV), a Remote Operated Vehicle (ROV), or as an assistant to a diver. SRS Engineers worked with Fischer Connectors to test and specify a Fischer FiberOptic single fiber (FO1) connector that operates in harsh environments to transfer massive amounts of data, often in real time, to topside operators and analysts.

A unique solution from Fischer Connectors is used on the SRS FUSION and topside devices, completing a gigabit connection to deliver data in real time or upon retrieval.

 

CHALLENGES & OPPORTUNITIES

When the team at SRS started on the design for their FUSION autonomous underwater vehicle in 2015, they wanted to differentiate it from other underwater robots on the market. It needed to be the right size to conduct military missions, help first responders with recovery efforts, and go on small-boat scientific explorations. This meant that it needed to be rugged enough to go underwater in all weather conditions down to a depth of 1,000 feet, and send sonar and sensor data, and HD video back to the surface. But that’s not all. They wanted it to be multi-functional, so that it could be tethered to the topside where information was being gathered in real time, or remotely operated to navigate into places where a tether might get in the way. And they wanted the price tag to be affordable.

It's about the data

One of the first requirements, according to Jesse Rodocker, President of Strategic Robotic Systems, was that it had to be able to endure the rigors of underwater oceanic travel in all weather conditions. After that, it had to handle a ton of data. “We knew we needed HD video with a gigabit link to the surface. This, along with the distance that we needed, ruled out traditional copper. We knew right away that we had to use fiber optics.” The engineering team had to go on a mission to find a rugged fiber optic connector that could handle the data and the conditions.

The search for the right connectivity solution

The Fischer FiberOptic Series FO1 single-fiber connector is currently rated IP68 for 2 meters, 24 hours. That’s what’s in the literature. But upon inspection, the SRS team believed it could do better. The engineering team had already specified the single-fiber FO1 for the topside devices. There were receptacles on the consoles that transferred data into a network. The topside devices needed to stand up to weather and rough handling for military personnel, and Fischer Connectors’ products fit the bill. Since they’d already selected Fischer Connectors for the topside, and had a relationship with the Fischer Connectors team, they started looking at it for subsea as well.

Rodocker says that after seeing the connector on the top side, he believed it would work below the water, even though it wasn’t officially specified to go as deep as they needed it. “Typical subsea components were very, very expensive. They were big, they were heavy, and they weren’t easy to use. We needed something that was smaller, easier to install, easy to use, yet was robust and reliable that would still stand up to the job.”

 “We have a pressure tank that we use to test the components under high pressure. We can test to 750 psi. It mimics the pressure at various depths underwater. So we got some samples, and went to work on the pressure testing.” The connector samples passed the test down to 1,000 feet of pressure and beyond. Mated pairs and cables were also tested. After passing the test in the company’s lab, engineers took it out to the open sea, where the connectivity solution worked successfully both mechanically and optically in real-life tests as the vehicle moved around. For the cable that also acts as the tether, SRS developed a custom cable with Linden Photonics, and worked with Fischer Connectors’ partner FIS Blue for the integration.

The vehicle is now used by the U.S. Navy to find and acquire mines and mine-like objects. Other military, security, and scientific organizations are also using this reliable, affordable AUV/ROV with a unique connectivity solution from Fischer Connectors to help them complete successful underwater missions.

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“We chose the Fischer FiberOptic connectors because they’re reliable, they’re well made, and they come in at a good price point. All those things factored into our decision. We’re using them topside in our consoles and accessory devices, and underwater in the autonomous underwater vehicle itself.”

Jesse Rodocker, President, Strategic Robotic Systems

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The unique orange fiber optic cable is terminated with a Fischer FiberOptic FO1 connector on both the topside and subsea ends, allowing for fast data transfer HD video and other data in real time.

 

THE PROJECT IN BRIEF

Industry

Defense & Security, Scientific Exploration

Application type

Instrumentation, Marine

Location

USA

Project overview

Strategic Robotic Systems (SRS) selected the Fischer FiberOptic FO1 connector so that it could safely and securely transfer large amounts of data from the sensors, sonar devices and cameras on its FUSION autonomous underwater vehicle to topside operators and analysts. The FUSION is used for military, search and recovery, and scientific missions worldwide. Its fiber optic connection is a gigabit link to the surface that works in extreme conditions, in oceans, lakes and waterways. This underwater ROV/AUV goes down to 1,000 feet (304.8 meters) with Fischer Connectors’ IP68-sealed connectors. The use of rugged connectors allows the submersible to operate either tethered or untethered, depending on the mission at hand.

For reference, 1,000 feet deep is the same depth as the World Record set for a human being to scuba dive. In 2014, Ahmed Gabr used a special guidance rope to help him achieve the record, taking just 12 minutes to descend, but 15 hours to come back to the surface. In its deepest travels, the FUSION UUV reaches the top of the dysphotic or “twilight” zone of the ocean. At that depth, there is so little light that there is no photosynthesis.*

* The Dysphotic zone starts at 660 feet deep and goes down to nearly 3,300 feet deep. The FUSION travels to depths of 1,000 feet, the top of this zone > https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/facts/light_travel.html

 

KEY CONNECTIVITY CHALLENGES

  • Ensure reliable connectivity down to 1,000 feet (304.8 meters)
  • Transmit HD video at gigabit speed
  • Must work both tethered (for real-time data) and untethered (upload data later)
  • High number of mating cycles for connectors

 

THE SOLUTION

The Fischer FiberOptic FO1 single-fiber connector is used to help take the SRS FUSION underwater vehicle down to 1,000 feet, either tethered or untethered. Its IP68 sealing protects the vehicle and data in rough oceanic conditions.

Selected connectivity solution

Fischer FiberOptic Series FO1 fiber optic connector (single fiber), custom cable, assembled by Fischer Connectors’ partner FIS Blue.

Main requirements

Ability to survive up to 1,000 feet deep (450 psi) and handle rugged oceanic conditions.

Added value

This rugged fiber optic connection allows the SRS FUSION to be one of the few hybrid ROV/AUVs on the market, delivering sonar and sensor data, plus HD video, at gigabit speeds.

Business benefits

  • Use of fiber optics provides rugged connectivity and still allows SRS to keep the overall cost down, making the FUSION one of the most affordable unmanned underwater vehicles on the market today
  • Runs missions down to 1,000 feet (304.8 meters) underwater
  • Cost efficiency thanks to a better project cost to product life-cycle ratio