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Powering autonomy

The world's first fleet of autonomous robot exploration vessels for commercial use is to be powered by Volvo Penta.

The ‘Armada’ fleet comprises two sizes of super-advanced unmanned vessels both of which will be 100% diesel-electric.  Seafloor analysis and oceanography company – Ocean Infinity – has invested in the fleet which is in construction at Grovfjord Mek. Verksted (GMV) shipyard.

The fully 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 Volvo Penta D8 MH variable-speed engine will power the marine generator sets on board.

The all-new 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 plays a big role in the significant CO2 reduction.

“Volvo Penta is delighted to be part of this groundbreaking project in cooperation with Danfoss Editron,” says Johan Inden, Head of the Marine Segment at Volvo Penta. “Together, we will deliver an optimized power solution – to the autonomous Armada fleet – designed for ultimate performance while reducing the environmental footprint. ”

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

The ‘Armada’ fleet 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 which can result in significant costs being generated. The ‘Armada’ fleet has no need of host vessels, being operated via satellites from onshore facilities in Texas USA and Southampton UK.

The streamlined approach to commercial deep-sea exploration is set to help deliver efficient operations, cut costs significantly, and reduce the harmful environmental impact sometimes associated with traditional operations.

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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