Intelligent AUVs set for complex offshore tasks

SWARMs AUV (Photo: Acciona)

The €17 million SWARMs project is developing autonomous subsea vehicles (AUVs) based on artificial intelligence, that will be able to perform complex review and repair operations on underwater structures.

The use of this type of AUVs will reduce the risks associated with the construction and repair of offshore structures, work currently performed and monitored by divers, according to Acciona – the developer of the AUVs for the project.

Aside from conducting repairs on offshore energy infrastructure, the AUVs can also be used to measure and monitor levels of suspended materials, as a result of dredging operations and to measure the concentration of suspended solids in water.

These vehicles can work together in groups – or swarms, hence the project name – communicating via acoustic modems, dispensing with the need for cables or human controllers, Acciona said.

The project involves 30 companies, universities and technology institutes from ten European countries.

Apart from Acciona, participants include multinationals from different industries like Leonardo, Thales, Bosch, Boskalis, and Tecnalia, and universities such as Madrid Technical University, the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Mälardalen University Sweden and Aveiro University.

The technology has so far been tested in three use cases in Spain, Romania and Norway. The first tests were carried out at the PLOCAN marine laboratory in Gran Canaria, where the validity of the technology was verified in terms of both robotics and telecommunications, Acciona said.

In the Black Sea, it was used to measure the concentration of sulphuric acid in water, while the trial in Norway consisted of tracking a freshwater plume in the sea.

The project also includes designing a video-game-like user interface designed to enable vehicles to be managed without the need for specific training in robotics.

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