AMC Search complete first ever autonomous survey of Cataract Gorge

Mapping project gives trainees real-world experience using autonomous technologies.

March 06, 2023

AMC Search, in partnership with the City of Launceston, has recently completed the first ever autonomous underwater survey of the First Basin at the Launceston’s Cataract Gorge.

AMC Search manager of Defence and Autonomous Systems Chris White said that the survey had ‘mapped’ the bottom of the First Basin and was completed using the ‘EduCat’ micro autonomous surface vessel.

"The EduCat is 1.8m long, weighs 35kg and was designed and built by autonomous systems engineers at AMC Search" Mr White said.

"We fitted EduCat with a multi-beam sonar for this survey, with 8.2 million individual depths recorded. This represents the most comprehensive bathymetric survey of the Basin that has ever been completed."

Mr White said that the survey was planned and executed by trainees undertaking AMC Search’s Autonomous or Uncrewed Surface Vehicle (USV) Operator course.

Under the supervision of AMC Staff, the mapping project gave the trainees real-world experience in one of the many applications of autonomous technologies.

Mr White said that on survey day, public interest of the project was extremely high, with scores of eager onlookers speculating on what might be found.

"Some of those suggestions included car wrecks, sea monsters and extreme depths," Mr White said.

However, the actual result may be somewhat disappointing for those with a more active imagination. 

"Interestingly, the survey results showed that the First Basin contains more than 178 million litres of water - or the equivalent of 71 Olympic swimming pools worth of water," Mr White said.

"On the day of the survey, the maximum depth of the First Basin was just under 21 metres or 20.59m to be precise.

"Fortunately, or unfortunately depending on your perspective, the survey also proved that there appear to be no cars or sea monsters lurking in the Basin’s depths."

Launceston Mayor Danny Gibson said the underwater mapping project showcased the talents of the staff and students at the Maritime College in Launceston's Northern Suburbs.

"For many years now the AMC has been at the cutting edge of scientific maritime research on a world scale," Mayor Gibson.

"What we've witnessed here through this research project is the real-world application of those skills and that research and one that will no doubt generate more than its fair share of conversation and conjecture."

David Box, Autonomous Maritime Systems technician and operator said the College had designed and built EduCat to support the delivery of the AMC's Autonomous Survey Vessel courses.

"This particular EduCat model is the third generation of ASV we have in our Autonomous Maritime System Laboratory.

"It’s great to be able to use this technology for practical applications and to capture data to better understand the environment around us.”