Fully autonomous fleet to get hybrid power

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The Norwegian Grovfjord Mek. Verksted (GMV) shipyard is to construct a fleet of autonomous robot exploration vessels for seafloor and oceanography company Ocean Infinity, with the hybrid-power systems and propulsion supplied by Volvo Penta and Danfoss Editron. The ‘Armada’ unmanned fleet will be made up of two sizes of vessels, both diesel-electric.

“This is the first time that a commercial autonomous fleet is being developed, rather than just being a prototype,” remarked Erno Tenhunen, marine director at Danfoss Editron. “We are very proud to have been chosen for powering it.”

The hybrid-electric vessels will be powered by Volvo Penta DC gensets and Danfoss DC grid controls. Danfoss will provide the energy management system and propulsion control for each vessel while the engines behind the power management will consist of variable speed gensets.

Volvo Penta’s D8 MH variable-speed engines have been chosen to power the marine generator sets on board. According to the company, the D8 engine is a perfect match for the autonomous vessels due to its compact size and high power to weight ratio. Additionally, the engine’s low fuel consumption will aid reductions in CO emissions.

Danfoss Editron, Volvo Penta and Grovfjord are working in close collaboration to enable the Danfoss control system to optimize the use of the engines for the most efficient power/consumption performance and consequently, an optimal environmental footprint.

Volvo Penta also noted that the generator set is designed to provide considerable weight savings and that cooperation with the Volvo Penta genset outlet Powerhouse has added an additional element of flexibility to ensure the delivery of the power package suitable for the vessel.

According to its future operator, the fleet of autonomous vessels will provide new opportunities for deep-sea exploration. Each vessel will be able to launch separate remotely operated underwater vehicles (ROVs). These unmanned submarine-like ROVs will reach depths of up to 6000m and carry out surveys on pipeline routes as well as collect vital seismic data. Currently, ROVs need to be tethered to manned research vessels. The fleet of autonomous surface vessels will mean that ROVs can be operated – without a nearby host vessel – via satellites from onshore facilities in the US state of Texas and the UK city of Southampton.

“This contract is a fantastic opportunity for us,” said GMV’s CEO Bård Meek-Hansen. “The fact that a world-leading company – like Ocean Infinity– would choose to partner with us is a great honor, and it highlights that our focus, on design and technology development, in recent years has been right. We look forward to cooperating with Ocean Infinity, Danfoss Editron and Volvo Penta for the development and construction of these vessels.”

The first four vessels in the Armada fleet are due to be delivered to Ocean Infinity in 2021, with the remaining robots completed in the next months.

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