GEAR | Volvo Penta, Danfoss to help power world’s first fleet of commercial autonomous exploration vessels

Photo: Ocean Infinity

Volvo Penta and Danfoss Editron have been commissioned by Grovford Mek Verksted (GMV) shipyard to power the world’s first fleet of autonomous robot exploration vessels for commercial use.

Seafloor analysis and oceanography company Ocean Infinity has invested in the Armada fleet of advanced unmanned vessels. The fleet will be made up of two sizes of vessels, both of which will be 100 per cent diesel-electric.

The fully hybrid-electric vessels will be powered by Volvo Penta DC generator sets and Danfoss DC grid controls. Danfoss will provide the energy management system and propulsion control for each vessel while the engines behind the power management will be variable speed gensets delivered by Volvo Penta.

The Volvo Penta D8 MH variable-speed engine will power the marine generator sets on board. This all-new D8 engine is ideal for the autonomous vessels due to its compact size and high power-to-weight ratio. Additionally, the engine’s low fuel consumption helps ensure significant CO2 reduction.

These vessels will be in the open ocean far away from land and maintenance providers, hence Ocean Infinity’s need for reliable and efficient components.

This fleet of autonomous vessels will provide new opportunities for deep-sea exploration. Each vessel will be able to launch separate remotely operated underwater vehicles (ROVs).

The unmanned submarine-like ROVs will reach depths of up to 6,000 metres and carry out surveys on pipeline routes as well as collect vital seismic data.

Currently, ROVs need to be tethered to manned research vessels, and this is expected to result in high operating costs. However, this new fleet of autonomous surface vessels will mean that ROVs can be operated – without a nearby host vessel – via satellites from onshore facilities in Texas and Southampton in the UK.

This approach to commercial deep-sea exploration is expected to help deliver efficient operations, cut costs significantly, and reduce the harmful environmental impact sometimes associated with traditional operations.

The first four vessels in the Armada fleet are due to be delivered to Ocean Infinity in 2021, with the remaining robots completed in the next months.

See all the other news, reviews and features of this month’s Marine Engines and Propulsion Systems Week right here.

Baird Maritime Gear Editor

The latest maritime gear and service news from across the globe.