The ENDURUNS project aims to develop a hybrid AUV powered using hydrogen fuel cell technology. The application of high energy density H2 as fuel will permit extended operation at sea up to several months, enabling multiple missions to be carried out even with a single launch sequence. The ENDURUNS AUV system encompasses capability of launching and retrieving from port, airplane, helicopter, special vessels as well as ships of opportunity. It also includes communication features which will enable mission data transfer and updates on the fly from the RMCC supervisor, advanced high-accuracy geotagging, optimized controller and data handling hardware and software. ENDURUNS will be able to perform high-resolution seabed mapping within the 100m target specified by the “Seabed 2030” initiative as well as detailed inspection of offshore infrastructure which may requires even higher levels of resolution. The sensor payload will be adaptable to the specific requirements of each mission thanks to the modularity and compatibility offered by the ENDURUNS AUV architectural design. Surveying capabilities will permit the use of the ENDURUNS system for geophysical studies, fish stock assessment, surveillance, mineral resources, offshore infrastructure structural evaluation and so on. A USV will be used in conjunction with the AUV during operation for geotagging, communication and command transmission from and to the RMCC. The USV will be capable of connecting with the AUV when required and return to port as a single unit. The USV will communicate with the AUV and the RMCC and relay data back and forth so mission objectives can be updated dynamically whenever required. The USV will permit the accurate geotagging of the areas mapped or inspected by the AUV. To extend operational autonomy the USV will be powered using a hybrid power bank incorporating a hydrogen fuel cell, battery pack and photovoltaic panels. In case of adverse weather conditions the USV will be capable of submerging up to 20m underwater and resurface again, resuming nominal operation when weather has improved sufficiently.

The technical objectives of ENDURUNS to be achieved within the duration of the project are:

  1. To implement a hybrid AUV design
  2. To develop a power train based on hydrogen fuel cells enabling increased energy to be installed onboard in comparison with conventional battery powered AUVs
  3. To develop a USV capable of sustaining operations in remote deep ocean and heavy traffic environments equally well and be self-sufficient in terms of energy requirements
  4. To design and develop launch and return to base features for the vehicle
  5. To incorporate redundancy and fail safe features
  6. AUV modularity and compatibility with current state-of-the-art sensing and communication systems for underwater survey and inspection activities
  7. Geotagging with the aid of the USV
  8. Demonstration of developed technologies in relevant environment

The societal objectives of the ENDURUNS projects are:

  1. Contribute to the rapid and accurate mapping of the world’s oceans with a resolution of 100m, helping fulfil the goals set by the “Seabed 2030” initiative
  2. Contribute in understanding the impact of oceans in global environment
  3. Enrich scientific knowledge for deep sea habitats and geological-geophysical formations
  4. Improve inspection efficiency and maintainability of offshore infrastructure