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44 T he inability to communicate wirelessly with underwater vehicles has spurred great advances in UUV autonomy. As the capability to behave intelligently without operator input has been proven over time, end-users in the private as well as public sectors are now trusting longer and more complex missions to UUVs than ever before, and eyeing longer endurances and greater modularity. These demands are reflected in many of the upcoming and recently launched UUVs around the world, which are also growing in physical size to accommodate the necessary payloads and power banks to support customers’ requirements. Subsea heavy industry In the light of constant demand for AUVs that can operate for longer and carry out a wider and heavier range of duties unsuited to highly specialised subsea vehicles, the Technical University of Berlin (TU Berlin) is now at the forefront of a consortium aimed at developing a new variety of autonomous underwater system. The Modifiable Underwater Mothership (MUM) UUV is being designed with a mission-dependent module-based assembly. Where the MUM differs from other modular systems, however, is that not only can the payload section be swapped or supplemental power packs added, it also has a wide range of mission-specific modules that can be added alongside the ‘basic’ modules. Both types of module consist of large, cartridge-like hull sections that end-users can add according to the capabilities they need. “The basic modules are those that are typically necessary to build a fully functional underwater vehicle – essential components such as control and guidance systems, sensors, comms, energy supply, ballast and propulsion,” says Florin Boeck, research associate at TU Berlin. “The specific mission modules are designed for the individual needs of a subsea operation. A standardised interface for the modules has been developed to enable easy integration of modules from a third-party developer, Developers of the latest underwater vehicles are finding that customers now want modular designs and payload choices. Rory Jackson reports Sea change The Modifiable Underwater Mothership UUV will be available in various configurations. For drilling rig work, it could have a maximum depth rating of 5000 m and a range of 350 nautical miles (Courtesy of Thyssenkrupp) February/March 2019 | Unmanned Systems Technology