PILOT System

ROV Tracking from Ships and Boats

Odoo CMS - a big picture

Product Description 

Practical and accurate, PILOT combines the versatility of a USBL system with the survey-grade capability of a long baseline (LBL) system in one compact configuration. Set it up within minutes and without the needs for transducer poles or other heavy gear. Operate from a small vessel for basic tracking of a ROV or divers, from a working boat for precision pipeline inspection, or from a dock to survey a harbor basin with full 3D position accuracy in the tens of centimeters. Accuracy improves with the spacing of the three small over-the-side transducers, yielding the performance and robustness of a long baseline system when working from a larger work vessel, barge or a dock while providing USBL like performance when set up on a small boat. The easily learned software includes chart overlay, image capture and annotation, ready real-time data export to Hypack, Google Earth and other charting software, and intuitive “sea floor painting” to visualize survey coverage.

PILOT, with its unique technology, is frequently used in applications where USBL technology is too inaccurate, yet the deployment of a seafloor based long baseline (LBL) array is not practical. Typical customers and applications include use as a “gold standard” reference for accuracy verification of inertial navigation systems by Sandia National Laboratory, detailed transects and exploration under the Ross Ice Shelf (Antarctica) by the Moss Landing Marine Laboratory, and the sub-meter position surveying of hundreds of kilometers of pipeline in Lake Maracaibo by Venezuela Divers.


Have interest?  For a quote or more information, contact us at: salesinfo@desertstar.com

System Diagram

Surface station transducer (S1) sends an acoustic interrogate. ROV station (A) replies and the reply is received by the three surface station transducers (S1-S3). The reply signals and encoded ROV depth are timed by the surface control box. Acoustic ranging data, encoded ROV depth information and data from ship-mounted GPS and heading sensors are combined to compute the ROV position, which is displayed on a mapping engine.

Odoo CMS - a big picture
Odoo CMS - a big picture

Key Characteristics 

  • Ship mounted positioning system with easy-to-install over the side sonar transducers

  • Effective within 250m-1000m of the boat

  • Optimized accuracy using the entire ship length and beam as the ‘baseline’. Position fixes are more accurate and robust than most ship mounted ‘USBL’ systems

  • Quick setup with automatic baseline self-survey

Component Selection and Cost Overview

PILOT systems can be configured in several different build outs from a rugged system that is used in the elements to a system that is mounted into the console of the vessel. In general all systems need three main components: a surface station (with cabled transducers), a transponder for mounting on the target, and software that operates on a [provided] Windows laptop.

Surface station (optional high powered):
  • STM-3 Rugged splashproof housing, rechargeable batteries (optional video output)

  • TLT-3 Miniature transponder for microROV mounting

  • VLT-1 Vehicle locating transponder for larger underwater targets including diver mounting applications (optional high powered)

  • DB-PILOT Basic tracking software

  • DB-SeaFloor Advanced tracking software including image overlay/annotations, GPS/Heading sensor integration, position output, and other charting features

Ease of Use

PILOT systems are very easy to use and can be set-up within a few minutes. Much like “LIFE” you get out as much as you put in, and the more effort you put in during the design and set-up phase of your deployment the better results a PILOT system will give you during operation.

For example, you have the option of just dropping the three transducers off the side of the boat 1 forward / 2 aft, pacing the steps between each transducer, and ballpark estimating the distance when setting up the software. With that set-up you are done within 2-3 minutes and can commence tracking immediately. However, your position error will certainly suffer, but you will at least know the transponders general location relative to your transducers.

Alternatively deploy the transducers off the side of the boat, weighted, and the cable rigidly mounted so that the transducers are prevented from swaying. Measure the distances between each of the transducers with a tape measure and record those numbers. Open the software, input a size relative grid (say .5m x .5m, for example), and place the baseline station locations with accuracy. You now a system that will give you accurate (sub-meter and better) positions. Set-up time generally takes 5-10 minutes the first few times as you get the hang of it.


Custom systems are quoted on an as-needed basis.

Technology Readiness Level


Corresponding DoD TRL: 9

Description: This product has endured rigorous testing and has been deemed commercially available.