Case Study: USV-Deployed METOC Services’ Real-Time Data Reduces Risk for Seismic Operations, Gulf of Mexico

Challenge: Acquire real-time measurements of weather conditions and currents during seismic surveying operations to reduce the risk of towing multiple acoustic streamers close to oil platforms and other vessels.

Solution: Deploy unmanned surface vehicles (USVs) near platform structures to measure local current speed and direction as well as weather data for relay in real time to the seismic survey vessel’s line planning team.


  • Reduced operational risk during the seismic campaign in a busy shipping route by supporting real-time assessment of the prevailing conditions via the USV-obtained meteorological and oceanographic (METOC) data.
  • Lowered costs by replacing ships that would otherwise have been deployed to collect the data.

Current and weather hazards

Rich in natural gas and oil resources, the Gulf of Mexico is also home to some of the busiest shipping routes in the world. In the process of seismic exploration, commercial vessels tow multiple acoustic streamers that record the reflection of acoustic energy from beneath the seafloor. The size of these operations and their vulnerability to the influences of surface currents and inclement weather make it critical to obtain real-time measurements of local environmental conditions to support operational safety, especially for close passes to structures and other obstructions.

Advantages of autonomous solutions

Instrumented USVs support greater situational awareness via real-time weather and current measurements. Even in this well-developed area, deployment on USVs is at a fraction of the cost of traditional monitoring services. With an ability to operate 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and independently of weather conditions, USVs are an ideal approach for persistent metocean monitoring operations.

Reduced operational risk and cost

The autonomously piloted instrumented USVs held stations in the survey area in relation to structures and other obstructions to provide extensive METOC data. With the resulting augmented situational awareness of local current and weather conditions in real time, the line planning team for the survey vessels WG Amundsen and WG Cook was able to reduce streamer deployment risk.

Download: USV-Deployed METOC Services’ Real-Time Data Reduces Risk for Seismic Operations, Gulf of Mexico (0.37 MB PDF)

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USVs Reduce Operational Risk and Cost During Data Collection

Time series of the ADCP current magnitudes from the vehicles show irregular variability between 0.1 and 2 knots. Knowing the magnitude and direction of these currents in real-time is critical for the safe navigation of the streamer vessel.Positions of USV 1 (blue), USV 2 (yellow) and USV 3 (red), during the METOC missions.Wind data from the USV coincides with data from the KGHB station. Please note the differing heights of the USV (1 meter) KGHB (110 meters).
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