Acciona developing autonomous vehicles for SWARMs R&D project
The SWARMs European project, of which Spain’s Acciona is a member, is developing vehicles capable of performing complex tasks in underwater environments autonomously.
The use of this type of autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs) will reduce the risks associated with the construction and repair of offshore structures, which is work currently performed and monitored by divers.
These AUVs can be used for repairs in ports, offshore platforms, and offshore wind turbines among others. These 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 and dispensing with the need for cables or human controllers.
The project budget is €17 million (US$19.6 million). It involves 30 companies, universities, and technology institutes from Spain, Germany, France, Portugal, Norway, Sweden, the Netherlands, Romania, Turkey, and Italy.
The technology has been tested in three use cases in Spain, Romania, and Italy. The first tests were carried out by Acciona at the PLOCAN marine laboratory in Gran Canaria, where the validity of the technology was verified in terms of both robotics and telecommunications. In the Black Sea in Romania, it was used to measure the concentration of sulphuric acid in water. The trial in Trondheim Fjord 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.