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ACCIONA developing autonomous vehicles for underwater work within the SWARMs EUROPEAN R&D programme

  • These autonomous vehicles will be able to perform complex review and repair operations on underwater structures (ports, rigs, offshore wind turbines, etc.) without human intervention
  • They will contribute to minimising the environmental impact of dredging operations and to early detection of high concentrations of pollutants
  • The first trials were conducted in the Canary Islands, Norway and Romania

The SWARMs European project, of which ACCIONA is a member, is developing vehicles capable of performing complex tasks in underwater environments autonomously, i.e. without the need for human intervention, using Artificial Intelligence.

The use of this type of underwater autonomous vehicles 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.

They 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, dispensing with the need for cables or human controllers.

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); apart from ACCIONA, participants include multinationals from different industries (Leonardo, Thales, Bosch, Boskalis, Tecnalia, ...) and universities such as Madrid Technical University, the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Mälardalen University Sweden and Aveiro University.

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-game-like user interface designed to enable vehicles to be managed without the need for specific training in robotics.

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