Application and Use of Offshore Microprocessor and Graphics Technology in Real-Time Dredge Monitoring and Control

Campman, C.R. (Arctec Offshore Corp.) | Johnson, T.L. (Arctec Offshore Corp.)



As the dredging Industry strives to streamline its offshore operations to be more time and cost efficient, applications for the microprocessor systems used to monitor rig operations are increasingly finding their way into the cabs of heavy equipment. The use of small, sophisticated data acquisition systems, combined with operator friendly graphic displays, allow increased production with greater precision in excavation.

Using experience and technology gained from years of offshore transport monitoring, systems have been designed and installed to bring the application of real time operator feedback to the dredging industry. This paper explores the use of offshore Instrumentation and microprocessor systems in dredging applications. It details the use of graphic displays to increase operators/equipment accuracy and efficiency while excavating both above and below the waterline.

Outlined are two such field installations, along with operator comments after extended use. These Installations both applied existing motion monitoring technology to lower operator error, speed excavation, and provide increased accuracy of the finished slope or surveyed profile.

The use of small dedicated microprocessor systems providing real time operator feedback IS tally new in the dredging Industry. The value of using real-time motion feedback as an aide in the towing of offshore structures has been proven in the field. The results of the first Installations Using this technology in the dredging Industry have been promising, further refinements through application can only Increase the benefits gained.


During the past several years advances in large scale Integrated Circuits have made high resolution black and White, and color graphics available to the average personnel computer user. Apple computer started the trend towards graphic user Interfaces with the Macintosh. IBM followed with several levels of color graphics hardware and the Industry produced software to support It.

Graphic also for heavy equipment control, and user operation and display in surveying have been slow in coming. Previous reasons were due to cost and complexity of such systems. These types of displays and control Interfaces have been used as new found tools With Which to Increase ones productivity in the office. With the advent of low cost graphic hardware and greatly increased software support, the in-field use of these new tools has been realized.

Graphic displays allow operators to react to the information presented about their equipment in a natural, easy to interpret form. The relative Positions of objects and their interactions can be quickly recognized and understood from a picture. A Position monitoring system without graphics would force an operator to constantly interpret a changing numerical display. The numbers would then be used to form a mental picture of the Objects proximities to earn other. It the numbers were misunderstood or transposed then the precision of the excavation would lessen and the time to complete It would Increase. The same monitoring system with graphics allows the operator, at a glance, to discern the position of his equipment and the progress of his work as compared With the Intended profile to be grades.

Benefits to be gained Include reduced operator fatigue, unsupervised operation by operators for extended periods, and greater precision in excavation. The constant monitoring of the work as it progresses, allows fewer interruptions for checks of the slope by survey teams.