Modular Underwater Vehicle Under Development


By The Maritime Executive 11-08-2017 06:56:59

Engineers from thyssenkrupp, Berlin Technical University, the University of Rostock, Atlas Elektronik and EvoLogics are developing a new type of unmanned underwater vehicle. The research and development project known as the Large Modifiable Underwater Mothership, or MUM, is expected to open up new ways to explore and harness the potential of the world’s oceans.

MUM is breaking with old conventions: The modular, unmanned underwater vehicle performs its tasks largely autonomously. Its unique modular design enables the new vehicle class to be customized 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 specialized tasks to be performed quickly and easily. 

With a payload capacity of several tons, MUM will be 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, say the developers. Newly developed mission modules are also easy to integrate.

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 floating, wireless underwater vehicle will be equipped with an air-independent fuel cell propulsion system. “Our goal is to develop a vehicle which allows diving depths of up to 5,000 meters and continuous operation for several weeks,” says Marc Schiemann, project manager at thyssenkrupp Marine Systems. The completely emission-free propulsion system also makes the underwater vessel ideal for use in highly ecologically sensitive environments. 

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.

As project coordinator, thyssenkrupp will among other things develop the overall operating concept for MUM and translate it into a draft design for the vessel in close collaboration with Berlin Technical University. The company will also develop and test the fuel cell energy supply. Atlas Elektronik is responsible for the guidance and navigation system (GNC) incorporating the control functions provided by the University of Rostock and communications developed by EvoLogics. 

Berlin Technical University will integrate the hardware into a vehicle concept and test scaled models of MUM. EvoLogics will be responsible for developing a telemetry network to enable the autonomous and accurate underwater navigation, positioning and communication of the new vehicle. The University of Rostock will develop an intelligent and fault tolerant control system, which adapts itself to the variable vehicle structure and changing dynamic behavior.