Technology Solutions for Scaling True AUV Tech

Technology Solutions for Scaling True AUV Tech
(Image credit: Cathx Ocean)

When Cathx Ocean was established in 2009, our purpose was to accelerate the development of truly autonomous and uncrewed operations, to enable scale, and facilitate a greater understanding of the impact of activity in the Ocean.

Autonomous vehicles are ‘autonomous’ in that they are not connected to a tether or an operator. However, their flight paths are largely predetermined. By adding sensor intelligence to autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs), it is possible to deliver major efficiencies to offshore operations.

Today the subsea industry has progressed from in-person and onboard operations to remote operations and is progressing to uncrewed and autonomous operations faster than ever before.


Conventional inspections and remote inspections are still largely subjective, manual, labor intensive, and time consuming. Cathx Ocean’s vision is to change this, step by step, by providing the building blocks and infrastructure for AUV software and sensors to transition more rapidly to true autonomy.

Since 2009, Cathx Ocean has become a global leader in visual technology solutions for underwater vehicles. Our solutions have been deployed globally to reduce both vessel and offshore personnel days while simultaneously reducing CO2 emissions by more than 50% over conventional vessel operations.

As the pioneers and inventors of Fast Digital Inspection and with 14 years of history and deep industry experience, our team shares unique insights into the subsea challenges. This guides our innovation; a focus to deliver reliable, quality data to thousands of surveyors and asset owners. Only through a scalable and robust solutions framework is it possible to deliver true autonomy solutions.


Uncovering important information as quickly as possible is central to all AUV work. Being able to report and assess anomalies or events as data is acquired (real-time information in the truest sense) fundamentally changes the economics of survey, becoming the enabler to collect much larger amounts of data and information. However, saying it and doing it reliably in a challenging subsea environment is not easy.

Cathx Ocean has already shown how to overcome the traditional visibility and speed issues during visual surveys, and this has led us to the next challenge.

To advance machine vision (MV) and machine learning (ML) based automation in the underwater environment, it is imperative to adopt a correct workflow methodology to handle the data (even if manual) at the outset.

Let us look at an example in Marine Science to illustrate this point. To reliably observe and monitor changes in coral reef health over a 10-year period, color, scale, image sharpness, lighting uniformity, and consistency all need to be standardized. This ensures variances due to contributing factors like different sensors, vehicles, operating, or environmental conditions are removed. ML algorithms cannot deliver a reliable solution until fundamental issues like these and underwater video and still imagery quality are resolved. While this may appear obvious in hindsight, Cathx Ocean learned this six years ago and we are now positioned to deliver the software solutions to address these challenges.

From only this start point, can we look at what information industry needs, as we now have the necessary building blocks.

Pipeline operators need to know about free spans or buckling; defense organizations need to scan the seabed for planted threats; and mineral companies want to establish both the coverage of a mineral and the megafauna and ecosystems depending on it.

All the above industries use multiple sensors, tools, and acquisition methods over much larger areas than visual data alone. Cathx Ocean is now leveraging our experience and expertise in standardizing visual workflows for Cathx sensors to all sensors so that over the next three years, by gradually introducing processing, automated event detection, report, and data product generation instantaneously for a given sensor or application, we can move the workflow to a fully autonomous one. This is the CathX Factor.


Cathx Ocean’s ability to automate feature detection via images and laser rely on our data quality and fused real-time shape information—the central building blocks for true visual autonomy. Cathx Ocean’s ML techniques use ‘shape’ to perform this function at higher speed, more reliably and with greater precision than any other visual sensor. All the raw data needed for any further offline processing is also still captured for future use. Our technology solutions not only process and co-ordinate data from our own sensors but can also allow processing and co-ordination of data from other vehicle sensors to identify objects with a high degree of certainty, tagging and recording these objects, their location, and providing real-time notifications.

Access to ‘true real-time' critical information empowers mission planning for now and into the future. Cathx Ocean’s proprietary approach to standardize data collection and processing workflows enables our customers to accurately monitor and reliably measure year-on-year variances irrespective of industry. By adopting this approach to data collection today, we can overcome the traditional industry challenges associated with manual inspection such as resourcing, vessel, and associated bandwidth issues.

By moving this capability on to the vehicle, this sensor intelligence provides information for AUVs to navigate more accurately and reliably, a core pillar for future autonomy.


As of September 2023, our AUV customers since 2016 will have exclusive access to Cathx Pipeline inspection solution. Our experience since 2016, saw pipeline operators standardize Cathx Fast Digital Inspection® data acquisition platforms for pipeline inspection in the North Sea, Australia, the Baltic, Egypt, Azerbaijan, Gulf of Mexico, and Brazil. Over the past two years we have upgraded our Hunter, and Vanguard systems to deliver real time free span and pipeline tracking capabilities to demonstrate how traditional workflows can be fundamentally changed.

These key capabilities deliver inline data pre-processing with automated event detection in milliseconds using shape information to reliably “measure” changes. Streamlined data product generation then takes these events and allows high speed color point cloud generation, achieved by combining color pixels from imagery with the shape information, to provide the input to pipeline integrity management tools within minutes and not weeks.

Our systematic approach to data acquisition, processing, automated detection to achieve real-time situational awareness accelerates our vehicle manufacturers and survey company client's path to true autonomy, creating more opportunity by making information collection and processing more affordable.

Join us on the journey to make autonomy real! To learn more, visit or contact us at

This story was originally featured in ON&T Magazine's September 2023 issue. Click here to read more.


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