Surveying the sea floor remains an expensive activity, typically requiring manned research vessels towing specialised sonar devices with the remote oceans. Consequently the sea bed remains largely unknown. Recent developments in autonomous technology enables the potential possibility of an underwater vehicle which can operate with a high level of independence and survey large areas without the cost of an accompanying support vessel. Such technology would revolutionise and massively reduce the cost of large area marine seabed surveys and as a result greatly increase our knowledge of the world's oceans (e.g. sea bed survey, fish stock assessment, surveillance, etc).
To address this challenge, proposals should address the following aspects:
- Develop and demonstrate to TRL5 an autonomous sea bed survey vehicle (if appropriate including its docking and reloading device) which can operate within the deep oceans for extended periods without the need for a close support vessel.
- Energy and propulsion systems capable of supporting several months of autonomous survey operation over large areas.
- Minimising deep sea deployment and recovery costs by for example enabling deployment by air and return to base features.
- Robust and secure data transmission, redundancy and "find me" features to enable self-recovery or in extreme case, rescue in case of breakdown.
- Compatible survey equipment.
The Commission considers that proposals requesting a budget from the EU of up to EUR 8 million would allow this specific challenge to be addressed appropriately. Nonetheless this does not preclude submission and selection of proposals requesting other amounts.
Enable a massive reduction in the cost of extended deep sea survey activities in comparison to traditional survey techniques Increase the availability of sea bed survey data. Promote the capabilities of European Marine industries and support European growth and jobs. Enhance the capabilities of European high technology SME's. Contribute to UN's Sustainable Development Goal 14. Conserve and sustainably use the oceans and the target to scientific knowledge. Develop research capacity and transfer marine technology.
Illustration Photo: Danielle Bryant, right, an oceanographer from the Naval Oceanographic Office, establishes a satellite connection to the Glider Operations Center at NAVOCEANO before launching the seaglider unmanned underwater vessel from the Military Sealift Command oceanographic survey ship USNS Henson. The vessel is designed to collect physical oceanography data in deep water. (credits: WBUR Boston's NPR News Station / Flickr Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0))