In the month of the third anniversary of the Costa Concordia cruise ship tragically running aground off the coast of Italy’s Giglio island (13th January 2012), Cyberhawk’s Founder, Malcolm Connolly, reflects on the company’s involvement in salvaging the wreckage of the cruise ship.
“Cyberhawk was commissioned in September 2013 as part of the parbuckling project of the Costa Concordia to visually monitor some of the critical equipment used during the parbuckle operation. In conjunction with Titan Salvage and Adus Deepocean, we worked closely with the sub-sea surveying team, ROV operations team and Chief Engineer to monitor equipment from the air during the righting of the vessel. The parbuckling of the Costa Concordia was one of the most challenging and risky engineering projects to be undertaken in a decade, and a great deal of engineering innovation across several areas contributed to the final success of the project. Although small, Cyberhawk’s role in the project marked the first time in history that underwater ROV and aerial ROV were thus combined in a non-military operation, to achieve overall situational awareness.
“During the parbuckle itself we deployed a three-man team equipped with two multi-rotor ROAVs,” continues Malcolm. “The airspace around the vessel was closed to all other non military aircraft. After submitting a safety case to the Italian Aviation Authority Cyberhawk was granted a special permission to overfly the wreck during the parbuckle to assist with the operation. Using ROAV equipped with still and video cameras, we flew continuous missions over the vessel, conducting close visual inspections. This information allowed the Titan engineering team to identify a potential problem developing due to tangling cables from the strain jacks, which could have resulted in failure of some of the jacks, putting the whole operation in jeopardy.
“This critical information led to a short pause in the parbuckle operation whilst riggers boarded the wreck and the tangled cables were cut free. The unique aerial perspective provided by the ROAVs resulted in early identification of this situation, potentially preventing a serious failure.
“After the parbuckling operation itself was complete we were then tasked with quickly surveying the vessel for any dropped objects that would need to be removed in case they endangered the salvage diving teams,” explains Malcolm. “We also acquired aerial imagery specifically for photogrammetric processing, which enabled us to produce a metrically accurate 3D model of the vessel. Our data was then combined with Adus’ sub-sea laser scan data and air-based laser scan data to create a full 3D model of the vessel. This was then used by Titan to engineer the attachment points for the starboard sponsons and the rest of the parbuckling project to the eventual successful re-float.”
The following video shows the vessel from the air after it had been righted: