The ENDURUNS project is an ambitious European initiative bringing together more than 15 partners. Its goal is to develop a long-endurance hybrid autonomous underwater vehicle, powered by hydrogen fuel cells.
The project closure and launch took place in Klaipėda, Lithuania, in July 2023.
This unmanned autonomous robot is capable of collaborating with an unmanned surface vehicle to carry out various ocean exploration missions, such as mapping the seabed, conducting geophysical studies, assessing fish stocks, and inspecting underwater infrastructure as well as monitoring
The design of the hybrid AUV robot powered by hydrogen fuel cells allows for prolonged operation at sea for several months, facilitating the accomplishment of multiple missions with a single launch sequence. Thanks to its hovering capabilities and support by the USV, ENDURUNS can perform high-resolution surveys of the seabed, detailed inspections of offshore infrastructure, and geophysical studies, among others.
In conclusion, the ENDURUNS project represents a major advancement in ocean exploration and the understanding of our oceans. By harnessing the power of hydrogen fuel cell technology and combining the capabilities of an AUV and a USV, it paves the way for deeper marine exploration and sustainable exploitation of marine resources. Through this project, Europe strengthens its leadership in the field of marine research and contributes to the global initiative of fully mapping the seabed by 2030.
Find our March 2021 article
The ENDURUNS project brings together 15 different European partners and an associated member from South Korea. The goal of this project is to develop and demonstrate a long endurance hybrid AUV (Autonomous Unmanned Vehicle) with gliding capabilities.
This hybrid AUV will be powered by hydrogen fuel cells and cooperate with an USV (Unmanned Surface Vehicle) to accomplish different missions: seabed mapping, geophysical studies, fish stock assessment, inspection of Underwater structures. The project is funded by the EU’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program.
COMEX is developing a mechanical docking mechanism allowing the AUV to dock to an USV and a virtual based system to assist in the docking process
Our planet is covered two-third by oceans and yet only an equivalent of 15% of the oceans’ total area has been explored to some extent. This represents a vast part of unexplored and uncharted natural resources available. During the 6th June 2017 United Nations Conference, the “Seabed 2030” initiative was launched by the General Bathymetric Charts of Oceans (GEBCO) operating under the guidance of the International Hydrographic Organization (IHO) and the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (ICO) of UNESCO. The goal of the “Seabed 2030” initiative is to promote international collaboration for facilitating the complete mapping of the ocean floor in 2030.
Mapping of the oceans and evaluating their resources is of great importance to global economy and societal security. It provides direct information on available quantities of resources for long-term sustainable exploitation, reliable climate change models, sustainable maritime food production chain stability, new offshore energy and mining resources, quality and status of sea habitats, potential new advanced biomedicine sources, etc.
The strong capability of identifying existing and future critical offshore infrastructure and the accurate mapping of the ocean seabed is of strategic importance to European Member States, maritime activities, policymaking, upholding the blue growth agenda and accurately assessing the state of European sets and International Waters as defined in the EC Marine Strategy Framework Directive (2008/56/EC). EMODnet is a central EU portal for the marine data and contains the existing seabed and bathymetric data acquired predominantly by carrying out bathymetry sonar measurements and multi-beam echo sounder with the help of surface vessels.
So, to achieve the objectives of the “Seabed 2030” initiative, several advancements are needed in areas like Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV) design, powering, and control technology, launch and recovery methods, as well as associated communication and geotagging techniques, seabed mapping and infrastructure inspection sensing, etc.
The ENDURUNS project aims to develop a hybrid AUV glider powered by hydrogen fuel cell technology. The application of high energy density H2 as fuel in combination with the gliding capabilities of the vehicle and the support of a USV for battery recharging and data exchange will permit extended operation at sea up to several months, enabling multiple missions to be carried out even with a single launch sequence. 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 require 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. An USV will be used in conjunction with the AUV. The USV will be capable of connecting with the AUV when required and return to port as a single unit.