Hybrid-electric propulsion for first commercial autonomous exploration vessels

Danfoss Editron has been commissioned by the Grovfjord Mek. Verksted (GMV) shipyard to deliver the hybrid drivetrain systems for a fleet of robot exploration vessels. The unmanned surface robots will be launched by subsea technology and data company Ocean Infinity under a spin-out firm called Armada.

Volvo Penta and Danfoss Editron have been commissioned by Norwegian aluminium workboat manufacturer Grovfjord Mek. Verksted (GMV) to power the autonomous exploration drones.

The order will be comprise of 21-metre long drones and 36-metre drones, capable of launching remotely operated underwater vehicles to a maximum depth of 6000m that will carry out surveys on pipeline routes or acquire seismic data. They will operate without a nearby host vessel and instead be controlled via satellites from onshore facilities in Austin, Texas and Southampton in the UK.

The new Armada autonomous drone does not require a host vessel, thus emitting up to 90% less CO2 emissions compared to conventional oceanographic survey methods.

Fully hybrid-electric power

The fully hybrid-electric drones will be powered by Volvo Penta D8 MH gensets. The variable speed engine was selected because of its compact size, high power to weight ratio and low fuel consumption.

Meanwhile, Danfoss Editron is delivering the full hybrid-electric propulsion and power plant system for the fleet, which consists of a combination of specialty batteries and diesel-generators. The company will also provide the energy management system and propulsion control for each vessel.

“Volvo Penta is delighted to be part of this groundbreaking project in cooperation with Danfoss Editron,” said Johan Inden, Head of the Marine Segment at Volvo Penta.

Danfoss Editron’s Marine Director Erno Tenhunen said “It is actually the first time that a commercial autonomous fleet in being developed, rather than just being a prototype. We are very proud to have been chosen by GMV as their technology partners for this ground-breaking project.”

“We’re also excited to continue our cooperation with GMV on the Armada project. It is one of the largest aluminium hull vessel builders in the world and has a strong history of delivering high-quality boats,” Erno added.

The vessels will be built according to DNV GL class. The first delivery is planned late this year, and the rest of the deliveries will take place between 2021 and 2023.

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