The Swarms project is developing vehicles capable of performing the tasks autonomously using artificial intelligence. The vehicles can work together in groups - or swarms, hence the project name - communicating via acoustic modems, dispensing with the need for cables or human controllers.
The first trials have been conducted in the Canary Islands, Norway and Romania. The first tests were carried out by Acciona at the Plocan marine laboratory in Gran Canaria, where the validity of the technology was verified in terms of both robotics and telecommunications. In the Black Sea, in Romania, it was used to measure the concentration of sulphuric acid in water; the trial in Trondheim Fjord, in Norway, consisted of tracking a freshwater plume in the sea.
Acciona says that the systems will be able to perform complex review and repair operations on structures such as rigs and offshore wind turbines. The use of this type of underwater autonomous vehicles will reduce the risks associated with the construction and repair of offshore structures, work currently carried out and monitored by divers. The machines can also be used to measure and monitor levels of suspended materials as a result of dredging operations and to measure the concentration of suspended solids in water.
The project also includes designing a video-game-like user interface to enable vehicles to be managed without the need for specific training in robotics.
The project budget is €17m (£15m). It involves 30 companies, universities and technology institutes from 10 European countries. Apart from Acciona, among the other team members are companies from different industries (including Leonardo, Thales, Bosch, Boskalis, Tecnalia) and universities such as Madrid Technical University and the Norwegian University of Science & Technology.