Skip to main content

Development and demonstration of a long-endurance sea surveying autonomous unmanned vehicle with gliding capability powered by hydrogen fuel cell

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - ENDURUNS (Development and demonstration of a long-endurance sea surveying autonomous unmanned vehicle with gliding capability powered by hydrogen fuel cell)

Reporting period: 2018-11-01 to 2020-04-30

The oceans cover more than two-thirds of our planet, representing the vastest part of natural resources available to us. Yet, only the equivalent of 15% of the total area covered by the oceans has been explored so far to some extent at least. Moreover, the exploitation of the available ocean resources has been predominantly associated with fishing, tourism, and offshore oil and gas production with very limited activity ongoing in mining or other sectors of significant industrial and societal interest. Charting the oceans and evaluating their resources is of great importance to global economy and societal security since it provides direct information with respect to reliable climate change models, sustainable maritime food production chain stability, available quantities of resources for long-term sustainable exploitation, quality and status of sea habitats, new offshore energy and mining resources, potential new advanced biomedicine sources, etc. Detailed mapping of the seafloor can contribute to the prevention of possible accidents, and increase global security against illicit activities, including terrorism, drug-trafficking, piracy and contraband trading. The oceans and the ocean seafloor hold great potential in terms of undiscovered geological resources and habitats of biodiversity, which can contribute profoundly to the long-term sustainable global economic growth.
The ENDURUNS project aims to develop a hybrid AUV vehicle with gliding capability and increased operational endurance lasting up to several months. The hybrid AUV vehicle will be capable of communicating directly with the shore-based RMCC, providing updates on mission status and collected data with the help of a lightweight and low cost autonomous Unmanned Surface Vehicle (USV). The use of the USV will also permit the reception and transmission of data to the hybrid AUV associated with mission updates or changes in mission parameters. The hybrid system will overcome the limitations of current AUVs and gliders by using advanced power packs based on hydrogen fuel cells rather than low energy density state-of-the-art Li-ion batteries, efficient control systems and optimised data handling and communication processes.
In the first 18 months, the consortium performed significant progress and executed all duties according to the technical annex. Regarding dissemination, we started working on the initial plan for dissemination and exploitation. At the same time, we proceeded with the preliminary specifications for the AUV that shall serve as guidelines for the development of this vehicle. Based on these details, we specified the USV characteristics in accordance to the operational requirements. We described the system requirements for each of the communication modalities that is foreseen for communicating among systems. At the same time, we described the key features of the USV design including the materials and techniques used. The following steps were to summarise the overall design of the power packs used for powering the underwater AUV glider and USV and at the same time to summarise the different fuel cell type technologies currently available. We also completed successfully the hydrodynamic simulations and water tank tests report. On month 18, we proceeded with the hybrid AUV glider design. We completed the thin film photovoltaic cells selection and evaluation and the Li-ion battery bank selection and evaluation. Navigation control of USV and underwater and radio communication systems were successfully delivered at the end of the 1st report. The only deviation during this period, was that we did not achieve to deliver on time D4.3 as we were influenced by the Covid-19 situation and it was not possible to complete the tests. However, we are totally certain that the deliverable will be submitted in the 2nd reporting period.
The ENDURUNS project aims to develop a hybrid AUV combining self-propelled and gliding capability, cruising to the area of interest as a glider, thus saving energy and then engaging the self-propelled mode in order to perform the survey activities anticipated. The AUV will be powered using a hydrogen fuel cell. The ENDURUNS system is designed to offer versatility allowing the exchange between different H2 storage devices to be performed easily without influencing the overall buoyancy and behaviour of the AUV.
Individual process innovations
Development of a long endurance AUV, offering a versatility of missions, a feature unique in the consortium; USV able to cruise in deep ocean and operate in tandem with the AUV; Hydrogen fuel cell and hydrogen storage for both AUV and USV; Advanced control of navigation, steering and power management; Sensor payload optimization; Docking function of AUV on the USV for power charging, data transfer and return to base; LAR and return to base features for both AUV and USV. Such operational features have not been demonstrated yet and are unique in this project
Impact
ENDURUNS will realise a new pioneering generation of AUV technology for deep ocean exploration, offshore infrastructure inspection, surveillance, geological and geophysical surveys, etc.
Expected impact (EI)1: Enable a massive reduction in the cost of extended deep-sea survey activities in comparison to traditional techniques. KPI: Reduction of costs by up to 80% by elimination of the need for a manned support surface vessel, advanced LAR capabilities, and maximized autonomy which will be several times higher in comparison with current state-of-the-art AUVs
EI2: Increase the availability of seabed survey data. KPI: Increase through high-duration and back-to-back survey missions. Available seabed data expected to double every 5 years as the ENDURUNS technology is taken up by the industry for at least until 2040
EI3: Promote the capabilities of European Marine industries and support European growth and jobs. KPI: The implementation of the ENDURUNS system will support and promote the capabilities of the European Marine industries by enabling new capabilities. The market growth will ensure increased revenue for the European economy as well as the continuous creation of additional high-skill jobs. Annual market growth of 25% per year until at least 2040
EI4: Enhance the capabilities of European high technology SMEs. KPI: At least 6 new technologies will be developed by the consortium, resulting in a step-change in deep ocean operations, significantly enhancing the commercial capabilities of EU companies. This will result in an average contribution to the annual growth of the partners of 10% for the first five years after the commercialization of the technology
EI5: Contribute to UN's Sustainable Development Goal 14. Conserve and sustainably use the oceans and the target to scientific knowledge. KPI: The implementation of a versatile, high-endurance AUV system will support the UN goals
EI6: Develop research capacity and transfer marine technology. KPI: Close interaction between the partners, public bodies, associate consortium and AG Members