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R&D update: Our journey to True Autonomy

With the Autonomous Surveyor Uncrewed Surface Vessel (USV) and A.IKANBILIS Hovering Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV) bringing unique capabilities to the market, 2022 was a landmark year in our mission to simplify the acquisition of marine data. It was, however, just the start of our autonomy journey.


Multiple workstreams

2023 is the year we accelerate the R&D ambitions that we strongly believe will result in game-changing solutions for both marine survey and underwater inspection. Our new innovation centre at the Ocean Technology Centre Rostock is a modern workspace for our growing R&D team to deliver on key workstreams designed to unlock higher levels of operational autonomy and project workflow automation.

A yellow unmanned speedboat (aka a USV).
The R&D team is working on new autonomy controller technology for the Autonomous Surveyor

“Our R&D direction is designed to meet the pressing need to build more efficiency into marine survey and underwater inspection workflows, especially as demand for both services is growing significantly in the light of expansion in the global offshore wind sector,” explains our recently appointed Head of Research And Development, Dr. Frank Niemeyer.


“While we have several parallel workstreams, the ability to re-deploy human expertise into roles more focused on operational oversight of multiple assets by increasing platform autonomy levels is an overriding theme. The objective is not to replace marine surveyors with robots, rather we are providing technology and services that will allow them to widen their operational scope and therefore speed up the collection of quality data,” adds Frank.


Short term objectives

In the short term, the Subsea Europe Services R&D team is focusing on the development of enabling technologies that will move our existing autonomous platforms to higher level autonomy states, using sensor automation and tight coupling between sensor payload and vehicle control.


The work includes development of a new line planning tool, progressing our sensor automation techniques along with e.g., our multibeam and other instrument partners, and ensuring the availability of dependable and high bandwidth internet connectivity from the field. These projects will contribute to the creation of a new ‘autonomy controller’ that will be deployed incrementally to our existing surface and underwater platforms as well as new additions to the fleet.


“We have a rigorous R&D trajectory established to optimise the man-machine-ratio so that survey and inspection companies can better utilise their technology and human assets,” said Sören Themann, Managing Director & CTO, Subsea Europe Services. “Delivering True Autonomy for our surface and underwater platforms is the foundation for achieving this, which is why we have invested significantly in to expand our R&D capabilities.”

Two underwater vehicles on a grey green sea
The A.IKANBILIS Hovering AUV (left) is integral to the R&D department's work in developing new automated workflows

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