Ac­ciona, a sup­plier of sus­tain­able in­fras­truc­ture so­lu­tions and a mem­ber of the SWARMS Euro­pean R&D pro­gramme is de­vel­op­ing au­ton­o­mous ve­hi­cles for un­der­wa­ter work us­ing ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence.

The SWARMS project aims to ex­pand the use of un­der­wa­ter and sur­face ve­hi­cles (AUVS, ROVS, USVS) to fa­cil­i­tate the con­cep­tion, plan­ning and ex­e­cu­tion of mar­itime and off­shore op­er­a­tions and mis­sions.

Un­der­wa­ter au­ton­o­mous ve­hi­cles, when brought to mar­ket, will re­duce the risks as­so­ci­ated with the con­struc­tion and re­pair of off­shore struc­tures, work cur­rently per­formed and mon­i­tored by divers. They can be used for re­pairs in ports, off­shore plat­forms, off­shore wind tur­bines, etc, and to mea­sure and mon­i­tor lev­els of sus­pended ma­te­ri­als as a re­sult of dredg­ing op­er­a­tions and the con­cen­tra­tion of sus­pended solids in wa­ter. The 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.

The tech­nol­ogy has been tested in three use cases in Spain, Ro­ma­nia and Nor­way. The first tests were car­ried out at the PLOCAN ma­rine lab­o­ra­tory (ex­e­cuted by Ac­ciona) 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-game­like user in­ter­face de­signed to en­able ve­hi­cles to be man­aged with­out the need for spe­cific train­ing in ro­bot­ics.

The project bud­get is €17 mil­lion. It in­volves 30 com­pa­nies, uni­ver­si­ties and tech­nol­ogy in­sti­tutes from ten Euro­pean coun­tries (Spain, Ger­many, France, Por­tu­gal, Nor­way, Swe­den, Nether­lands, Ro­ma­nia, Tur­key, Italy). Other par­tic­i­pat­ing com­pa­nies in­clude 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.

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