AutoNaut for extreme environments

Lead Participant: AUTONAUT LIMITED


"The aim of this project is to develop a wave propelled unmanned surface vessel (USV) capable of working autonomously, in winter, in the notoriously hazardous Antarctic and Arctic seas, such as the Roaring Forties and Furious Fifties. It is a partnership project led by AutoNaut Ltd, with the Universities of East Anglia and Exeter.

The collaborative project will need to solve novel issues such as icing on a small USV, and autonomous ice avoidance, as well as harvesting energy on the move when it is too dark for PV panels to charge batteries. It will adopt advances in the use of neural networking and artificial intelligence to manage and summarise data gathered so that vital data sets can be transmitted in real time via satellite to shore.

At present, there is a dearth of data from the Southern Ocean and Arctic, especially in winter. Very few ships pass through these enormous oceans. Not only do we have old and limited data on krill and fish stocks which may be threatened by a globally important fishery (legal and illegal), but climate scientists monitoring CO2 absorption at the surface have contradictory readings. Is the Southern Ocean giving off CO2, or absorbing it? This is a big question in climate science, and therefore for the global economy.

From a commercial perspective, the development of a very robust AutoNaut USV, with the capability to operate in the dark, and near ice, has great potential around the world. Some of the most difficult areas for offshore renewables and oil and gas industries are in extremely hazardous environments, such as the North Sea, Barents Sea, and the Arctic, as well of off South Georgia and the Falklands.

AutoNaut's wave propulsions system is elegant, and simple, with just four moving parts harnessing the pitching and rolling of a simple monohull to propel it forward. This system is inherently robust and is storm proven in the Atlantic, capsizing and self-righting in large breaking waves. It is seen as the only USV concept that has a chance of surviving such extreme environments. Solutions for icing and energy harnessing will give AutoNaut the capability for vital high latitude work of considerable importance both commercially and scientifically."

Lead Participant

Project Cost

Grant Offer

AUTONAUT LIMITED £350,008 £ 245,006


UNIVERSITY OF EXETER £74,996 £ 74,996


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