Ocean Technology Test Bed (OTTB)

University of Victoria, North Saanich, British Columbia
What the facility does

Research on underwater vehicles, acoustic positioning and communication; facilitating underwater instrument prototyping.

Areas of expertise

The Ocean Technology Test Bed (OTTB) is a readily accessible sea floor laboratory that enables scientific instrument prototyping, systems engineering and ocean-technology development, including research on underwater vehicles, acoustic positioning and communications. The lab is equipped with:

  • a subsea power and communications hub for testing oceanographic instrumentation;
  • an acoustic array for testing underwater acoustic positioning and communication algorithms;
  • a fully instrumented Saab Seaeye Falcon ROV for testing new technologies ranging from innovative new tooling to software algorithms;
  • a Bluefin-12 AUV configured for research and testing new AUV-based instrumentation.

The facility engineers have diverse backgrounds in mechanical engineering, electrical engineering and software development. The OTTB infrastructure and the extensive in-house knowledge base provide a solid framework for designing effective testing environments for a wide variety of applications.

Research services

Engineering research for ocean-related instrumentation, ROV services (underwater video/ recovery and deployment of instrumentation), AUV services (mapping and scientific data collection).

Sectors of application
  • Ocean industries



Service buoy

The OTTB service buoy is a round structure that is eight metres in diameter with a four-metre hole in the centre. Its primary function is to lift the recoverable platform, but it can also be used as a testing platform for oceanographic or meteorological equipment that runs on or near the surface. Real-time communication and 24/7 power can easily be provided to instruments on the buoy. The buoy has already supported numerous engineering tests for equipment, including two prototype vertical profiling systems, long-term testing of a shallow-water instrument array and calibration and characterization of acoustic profiling instruments.

Recoverable platform

The recoverable platform, the cornerstone of the OTTB facility, is a circular platform four metres wide that fits inside the service buoy. The platform usually resides on the sea floor in 80 metres of water but can be raised to the surface using a winching system on the buoy. Once it is at the surface, the platform is locked into place and can be used as a working surface for technicians.


The platform control module (PCM), a permanent fixture, is connected to shore via electro-optic underwater cables that utilize the VENUS observatory system. The PCM acts as a sophisticated junction box, splitting the 24/7 power and communication connection out to eight separate ports, each of which can support its own experimental set-up for multiple instruments. The ports can support most power and communication configurations.


Secure and private remote access to the instruments is provided through the virtual private network (VPN) access and VLAN services that run on the OTTB servers in the shore station.

Integrated acoustic system

The OTTB arena includes the entire water column over more than one square kilometre of sea floor near the VENUS observatory node in Saanich Inlet. The integrated acoustic system (IAS) is composed of five towers that have been placed around the arena. The towers are part of a cabled long-baseline acoustic system that features a precision timing system enabling the testing of innovative position and communication systems.


The IAS is built using off-the-shelf National Instruments hardware and has simple LabVIEW and MATLAB interfaces. This makes it easy to run new algorithms on the system and monitor their effectiveness as development occurs.

MANO: Bluefin-12 Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV)

The goal of the MANO project was to develop an AUV platform that could be used in conjunction with the OTTB to provide a test platform for developing, trialling and benchmarking underwater instrumentation on an AUV. The result is a Bluefin-12 AUV configured with an easily modifiable experimental payload. This provides instrument developers with a simple but robust platform that minimizes the upfront cost of testing on an AUV platform.


With MANO, the payload is completely independent of the main vehicle. A separate payload computer interacts with the primary vehicle computer to get navigation information and mission updates and facilitates communication to the payload sensors. Updating software on the payload computer to support new instruments is relatively straightforward, as it bypasses all the difficulties associated with integrating the sensor control directly into the vehicle-control software.


MANO is also equipped with a standard array of scientific and surveying sensors that can be used to collect side-scan sonar imagery, bathymetry and oceanographic data.

Saab Seaeye Falcon Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV)

The Falcon ROV, an observation-class vehicle that has been modified for research, is used as a work vehicle providing a means for deploying and recovering instruments, getting underwater video footage and other typical ROV tasks. It can also support other research, including guidance, navigation and control of underwater vehicles and novel tooling for small ROV platforms.

  • Ocean Networks Canada
  • Parks Canada’s Underwater Archaeology Service
  • AML Oceanographic
  • Rockland Scientific
  • Blackwood Scientific
  • Timberstone Tools
  • YSpec Technical Solutions