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High Accuracy, Cost-Effective and Eco-Friendly Dredging Solution

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - Toolbot (High Accuracy, Cost-Effective and Eco-Friendly Dredging Solution)

Okres sprawozdawczy: 2019-09-01 do 2020-02-29

Dredging is an essential part of economy, needed to maintain the draft of the ports and to fill their extensions allowing waterways and relevant infrastructure to operate at optimal capacity in favour of global distribution of goods. It involves the removal of particles of sand, clay, silt and other substances deposited in the bottoms of coastal areas, ports, river beds, dams, ... Within the dredging activities which are well developed for large scale activities, there are several scenarios where the traditional means (dredging vessels, backhoes operated from pontoons, etc.) either cannot do the job or are not efficient. In the small maintenance dredging sector, there are currently several situations without an optimal solution. The main pain that SubSea Mechatronics (SSM) is addressing with Toolbot, is the “last mile”, difficult to reach areas, close to infrastructure to protect, water locks and others, being the Ports our first customers.
Others are done inefficiently: e.g. when a Port Authority demands a dredging down to a certain depth, the vessels that cannot get too close to sensitive infrastructure, overdredge in a close area in order to get the requested limit in those areas that they cannot reach. Our solution is more precise, does not interrupt the navigability and surface activities, and would free the other assets so that they can do the jobs they are meant for, in an efficient manner. Finally, there are other works carried out not only in a costly and time consuming way, but risking human lives, as it is the case of the water locks in the Port of Seville, where our robot could spend 1 week working, and the divers would take 1 month or more. There are more than 3,000 ports only in Europe.
A large dam is defined by the dam industry as one higher than 15 metres (taller than a four-story building). There are more than 57,000 large dams worldwide. There are more than 300 major dams - giants which meet one of a number of criteria on height (at least 150 metres), dam volume and reservoir volume. Many of these projects have forced over 23 million people from their homes and land, many of whom are still suffering the impacts of displacement and dislocation. Besides there are other problems that need to be solved that represent also important niches, such as dredging the droppings underneath aquaculture cages, dredging in small and difficult to access dams (worldwide 50,000 with more than 15 m depth), big pump stations of plants or municipalities environmental projects that need to handle with care and precision contaminated sediments, increasing subsea mining demand and others.

Toolbot offers a solution for the last mile dredging operations where spots are hard to reach, where underneath infrastructures must be maintained or when conventional methods are oversized to actuate with precision. We make possible recurrent maintenance dredging in ports and marinas even in water dams due to an easy mobilisation by road truck using an underwater dredging vehicle. Our solution save costs for the specific scenarios complementing traditional means, reduces the operational time and the risks for scenarios where divers are doing the tasks instead of pilots from a safe area, and avoids the interruption of the navigability.

Under the SME Instrument Phase I, Subsea Mechatronics, S.L. (SSM) has gone further in order to elaborate a detailed business plan and route-to-market of the technology. SSM has gone through extensive discussions with the potential customers understanding their pains and the matching with our solution in order to study the feasibility of Toolbot. SSM has worked to obtain a real view of what the global market wants in terms of the Toolbot subsea dredging robot, regarding the geographical area, the business approach, the critical needs and challenges in the market, etc. According to the objective, SSM has conducted a market study to learn more about the reality of the sector, holding conversations with large international dredging companies, manufacturers of dredging equipment and customers. The next step ahead implies running demonstrators in those scenarios where the potential customers are willing to test our technology. SSM is ready to address it partnering with investors and customers to enter the market.
As a result, it is observed that the European market is service oriented, while others might accept the product oriented approach. Regarding the technology itself we have found convergence points for future developments with major players.
SSM has been developing, during these 6 months, subsystems incorporated in Toolbot, such as Subsea Cameras of the system that have also reached the market as stand-alone products. Besides we have developed Subsea Lights and the DVRs of the Toolbot system have evolved into a commercial product, namely a CCTV for divers. A redesigns of the whole system has been issued according to the feedback from the potential customers, suppliers and the feasibility study.
A critical step in order to continue our path to market is to put the basis for the demonstrators needed, specially with ports. SSM has started discussions with several ports with this purpose.
Market wise the company have carried out the market assessment of different geographical areas, and segmented the possible options of service/product orientation and niches/end users and also monitored the evolution of the competitors. At the same time we have studied suppliers for different geographical areas.
Regarding the work with stakeholders, SSM has advanced in conversations with different potential partners both regarding co-development options and commercialization.
Finally the company has carried out the Feasibility Report.
The socio-economic impact is reflected in the cost reduction in the dredging process. Not only in the dredging process, but also in the associated costs of release and disposal of the materials extracted, and the possibility to address scenarios that currently are not being taken care of.
By reducing water turbidity and last mile dredging, the environment benefits. This achieves a comparative improvement in terms of the affectation of marine life since the reduction of turbidity implies that the affectation of the environment is lower than with traditional means, and last mile dredging implies that you only dredge what it is needed to dredge, not exceeding the delimited area, reducing affected area. This is also a societal impact and implication of the Toolbot project because the reduction of turbidity is directly related to an environmental improve in the release zone versus conventional dredging process in which the material extracted from the seabed is released at a height of the bottom that creates a cloud of dispersion of materials that is deposited on the existing flora in the place. Toolbot has a great potential to deal with environmental dredging projects.