Canadian-based marine technology specialist Cellula Robotics has unveiled Vigilus, an advanced cableless submersible surveillance array for underwater monitoring and security.

Comprising a series of sensor nodes anchored to the seafloor, Vigilus forms a network of listening stations, designed to offer scientific organizations, commercial businesses or governments coverage and real-time insights into underwater environments.

Equipped with a variety of sensors, including hydrophones and automatic target recognition capabilities, the individual nodes transmit data acoustically until the data reaches a surface control point, where the data can then be transmitted via satellite or cellular network.

Kyle MacInnis, business development manager for Cellula Robotics, explained the compact and cable-less design of Vigilus nodes represents a significant technological breakthrough, allowing for deployment from small watercraft or covertly by unmanned underwater vehicles (UUVs).

“This design innovation eliminates the need for extensive infrastructure, making Vigilus a highly versatile and adaptable solution for persistent subsea surveillance,” he said. “The system can actually be deployed just using a single node, or with others to surveil a choke point like a strait.”

He added the nodes’ autonomous operation allows for continuous monitoring without the need for human intervention, enhancing operational efficiency and reducing resource requirements.

“It’s a huge cost savings versus the traditional subsea monitoring applications where they use cabled networks,” MacInnis said.

Cellula Robotics is working with a Canadian science organization in Canada, which already operates a cabled observatory for collecting various forms of data, including marine life observations and oceanographic conditions.

“We’re in discussions to place a Vigilus node at the very end of their observatory, extending the range of their existing infrastructure without having to lay seafloor cable,” he said. “They can just throw one of these nodes off the side of a vessel and extend the data collection range of their existing observatory.”

At the heart of Vigilus lies its advanced data transmission technology, which enables seamless communication between nodes and topside stations in real-time.

When an alert is triggered onboard a node, it is transmitted acoustically to neighboring nodes and subsequently to a topside station for further analysis.

“This communication network ensures rapid response to potential threats or anomalies, making Vigilus an invaluable tool for a wide range of applications,” MacInnis said. “All the processing that enables the automatic tagging recognition happens on board each node.”

Once that target is recognized, the alert is transmitted acoustically either to the next node, a cabled observatory or to a topside station.

The “target recognition” function is based on sound libraries stored onboard each node, and if a sound matching the target selected from the library is picked up, it triggers an alert.

“One application stems from our partnership with Transport Canada to monitor for Southern Resident Killer Whales in a marine protected area of the west coast of Canada,” MacInnis said. “The node is listening for a sound signature that aligns with one in the sound libraries you already have on your node.”

In defense applications, Vigilus could provide early warning capabilities by detecting and deterring unauthorized intrusions at critical maritime chokepoints.

The technology could also open new frontiers in marine biology, oceanography and environmental science, offering researchers new insights into underwater ecosystems as new sensors are developed and integrated into the Vigilus nodes.

“By integrating different sensors, we can meet the specific needs of various existing cabled cabled observatories,” MacInnis said. “Beyond that would be working with navies around the world to have classified sound signatures onboard the nodes so we can provide more specificity on what they’re looking to detect.”

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