DW: Autonomous Sub Market to Grow by 50 Percent

The Fraunhofer DEDAVE (company file image)

Published Aug 5, 2016 8:50 PM by The Maritime Executive

In a report published Friday, analysts Douglas-Westwood said that they expect the demand for autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs) to grow by nearly 50 percent by the end of the decade, reaching demand of over 900 units per year. 

AUVs are self-driving submersibles, designed and tasked with conducting subsea missions without input from the surface. They differ from remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) in that they run without a tether to a surface platform and without direct supervision, and they are generally smaller. While their human-controlled counterparts are a common component of commercial subsea oil and gas operations, where they perform manual tasks comparable to the work completed by divers at shallower depths, the majority of AUVs are deployed on military missions. They are an established component of many navies' reconnaissance and mine countermeasures toolkits; as an example, mine countermeasures training during the multinational RIMPAC 2016 naval exercise included nearly 80 AUV evolutions.

DW finds that military usage will continue to lead the market, with nearly three quarters of demand coming from the defense sector. But the same R&D effort that goes into AUV technology for defense applications also readies the devices for civilian uses like offshore surveying and environmental monitoring; commercially available, off-the-shelf models like the Remus 100, the HUGIN series and the Bluefin have been available for some time.

DW expects that the highest rate of growth will be in the commercial sector, mainly in oil and gas. "There has been substantial interest from oil & gas companies in the technology, as operators have begun to understand cost saving potentials," DW finds.  "However, low oil prices have reduced budgets and stymied investment in research and development – presenting a barrier to growth."

German research organization Fraunhofer IOSB is planning to capitalize on market growth by taking a production-line approach. Fraunhofer is building what it describes as "the world's first autonomous underwater vehicle to be developed from the outset with a view to series production." Its DEDAVE is intended to be built from standardized parts, and to be cheaper, lighter and easier to service than existing competitors – created from the outset for wider demand.