EU release EUR8 million funding call for seabed surveys

Map showing the underwater topography (bathymetry) of the ocean floor. Like land terrain, the ocean floor has ridges, valleys, plains and volcanoes. Credit: Wikipedia/Public Domain
Map showing the underwater topography (bathymetry) of the ocean floor. Like land terrain, the ocean floor has ridges, valleys, plains and volcanoes. Credit: Wikipedia/Public Domain

The European Commission has released its latest call for proposals for funding under the Horizon 2020 smart, green, and integrated transport work programme.

The call includes a scope to improve and cut costs for seabed surveys to enable autonomous shipping.

“Surveying the seafloor remains an expensive activity, typically requiring manned research vessels towing specialised sonar devices with the remote oceans,” the Commission said. “Consequently, the seabed remains largely unknown. Recent developments in autonomous technology enables the potential possibility of an underwater vehicle, which can operate with a high level of independence and survey large areas without the cost of an accompanying support vessel. Such technology would revolutionise and massively reduce the cost of large area marine seabed surveys and as a result greatly increase our knowledge of the world’s oceans e.g. sea bed survey, fish stock assessment, surveillance, etc.”

To address this challenge, proposals should address the following aspects:

  • Develop and demonstrate to an autonomous seabed survey vehicle (if appropriate including its docking and reloading device), which can operate within the deep oceans for extended periods without the need for a close support vessel
  • Energy and propulsion systems capable of supporting several months of autonomous survey operation over large areas
  • Minimising deep sea deployment and recovery costs by for example enabling deployment by air and return to base features
  • Robust and secure data transmission, redundancy, and “find me” features to enable self recovery or in extreme case, rescue in case of breakdown
  • Compatible survey equipment.

The Commission considers that proposals requesting a budget from the European Union of up to EUR8 million would allow this specific challenge to be addressed appropriately.

Read the full call here.