The Magazine for Underwater Professionals
Partners from industry and research join forces to develop modular underwater vehicle
The weather conditions on the world’s oceans are often rough and difficult to forecast. To ensure that work on the open seas is nevertheless safe for people and does not harm the environment, a team of engineers from German organisations thyssenkrupp Marine Systems, Berlin Technical University, the University of Rostock, Atlas Elektronik and EvoLogics are now working together to develop a new type of unmanned underwater vehicle.
The research and development project known as the Large Modifiable Underwater Mothership, or MUM, will receive funding from the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy over three years. It will open up new ways to explore and harness the potential of the world’s oceans.
MUM is breaking with old conventions: the modular, un-manned underwater vehicle performs its tasks largely autonomously. Its unique modular design enables the new vehicle class to be customised cost-efficiently for each mission. Individual base modules can be freely combined with specific mission modules to form large systems, enabling even unusual and highly specialised tasks to be performed quickly and easily. Possible activities range from payload transportation and operations to research missions and stationary deep-sea tasks. This makes the new underwater vehicle ideal for industrial use in the areas of offshore energy and deep-sea mining as well as other applications, for example in maritime science.
“The world’s oceans present a wide range of tasks and questions that cannot yet be addressed because we don’t have the appropriate vehicles and systems,” says Marc Schiemann, project manager at thyssenkrupp Marine Systems. “MUM offers a wealth of new options for industrial marine engineering and scientific ocean research. We will equip the floating, wireless underwater vehicle with an air-independent fuel cell propulsion system. Our goal is to develop a vehicle which allows diving depths of up to 5000 metres and continuous operation for several weeks.”
The completely emission-free propulsion system also makes the underwater vessel ideal for use in highly ecologically sensitive environments. With a payload capacity of several tonnes, MUM is capable of handling even heavy-duty tasks. The individual modules can be reused, permitting a significant reduction in costs compared with conventional vehicle concepts and much quicker development cycles. Newly developed mission modules are also easy to integrate.
Research and development work for the project is expected to be completed by 2020, with a 1:5 scale model built and tested. The partners are targeting market readiness by 2025.