Marine Robotics Centre | Flanders Marine Institute

Flanders Marine Institute

Platform for marine research

Marine Robotics Centre

The Flemish government invests 3 million euros into a Marine Robotics Centre, exploited by VLIZ from 2018 onwards. The intension of this Marine Robotics Centre is to grant Flemish scientists and their (inter)national partners, as well as other Flemish actors in the marine robotics scene, access to the latest technologies in the marine research field. To accomplish this goal, VLIZ will acquire two robotic devices which are complementary to the already available remotely operated vehicle (ROV) Genesis.


1. ROV Genesis

VLIZ already possesses an unmanned underwater robot called “Genesis” which is controlled from a vessel by a cable connected to the robot. The ROV is mainly used for inspection and exploitation purposes and has already been deployed multiple times on the World’s oceans. More info about the ROV can be found at its webpage.

2. USV

An USV (unmanned surface vehicle) uses wave motion for its propulsion, while solar panels feed the measuring devices. Since the power consumption mainly relies on renewable recourses, an USV can perform measurements for prolonged periods of time (up to months) of both water and atmosphere. The layout of this watercraft, the measuring devices are positioned below the sonar panels in an adjustable environment, makes sure a broad range of measuring devices can be used. For instance, an ADCP can measure both the direction and the intensity of the currents, a CTD can determine the characteristics of the water column or a backscatter sensor can determine the turbidity of the water. VLIZ, together with Flemish researchers, is deciding which devices will be acquired for this watercraft.

3. AUV

An AUV (autonomous underwater vehicle) is a torpedo-shaped device which can perform measurements of the water column, the sea surface and the subsurface. The AUV can operate on a predefined track just above the seafloor and perform several measurements simultaneously. For instance, the relief can be measured in the highest detail, the composition of the subsurface can be acquired using geophysical methods or the characteristics of the water (acidity, oxygen, temperature, …) can be obtained using environmental sensors. The autonomy of this device depends on the amount of battery modules that are combined, but lies typically around eight hours. VLIZ, together with Flemish researchers, is deciding which devices will be acquired for this watercraft. However, a 1000 meter depth rating is assured, meaning that both near-shore areas as well as continental slopes can be investigated.

Technical workspace

The maintenance of the ROV Genesis is already taking place at VLIZ itself. Given the acquisition of two additional robotic devices (USV and AUV), a technical workspace will be set up in order to make sure that all devices are operational as much as possible. In a first stage, a seawater supply will be built, delivering seawater directly to the Marine Station Ostend. This will allow the construction of a test basin, filled with seawater, allowing initial tests of the different robotic devices on land.

VLIZ as administrator

Given that VLIZ is the central contact for marine sciences in Flanders, it is the ideal institution to manage these specialized marine robotics. This infrastructure will be of benefit for all actors in Flanders active in innovation in the marine landscape. The combination of ROV, AUV, USV and a state-of-the-art research vessel (Simon Stevin) is particularly suited to face many of the future challenges.

Tentative time line (subject to change)

February 2018     European tender for AUV and USV

May 2018            Closure of the tender

August 2018        Decision regarding AUV and USV

Summer 2019     Acquisition of AUV and USV

End 2019            MRC fully operational


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