Marine Robotics Centre | Flanders Marine Institute

Flanders Marine Institute

Platform for marine research

Marine Robotics Centre

In 2018, VLIZ started with the development of the Marine Robotics Centre and got an investment budget of 3 million euros from the Flemish Government. The intention 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 acquired in 2019 two robotic devices (AUV Barabas and USV Adhemar) which are complementary to the already available remotely operated vehicle ROV Zonnebloem, formerly named Genesis (*).


  • ROV Zonnebloem: Since 2012, VLIZ possesses an unmanned underwater robot (ROV) 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 Zonnebloem can be found at its webpage (*).

  • AUV Barabas: IN 2019 the AUV (autonomous underwater vehicle) was acquired. It is a torpedo-shaped device which can perform measurements in the water column, at the sea surface and subsurface. The AUV can operate on a predefined track just above the seafloor and perform several measurements simultaneously. The autonomy of this device depends on the amount of battery modules that are combined, but lies typically around eight hours. More info about the AUV Barabas can be found on its webpage.

  • USV Adhemar: The USV (unmanned surface vehicle) – purchased by VLIZ in 2019 – 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. Additional info about the USV Adhemar can be found on its webpage.

  • Glider Yoko Tsuno**: The glider, also a torpedo-shaped vehicle as our AUV, excels in multi-week deployments in open ocean and sea. It can follow a pre-determined track of waypoints where it continuously moved vertically in the water column, essentially sampling a vertical plane in the water column. More information on the glider can be found on its webpage.

  • Technical workspace: The maintenance of the ROV Zonnebloem was already taking place at VLIZ itself. Given the acquisition of two additional robotic devices in 2019 (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 (RV Simon Stevin) is particularly suited to face many of the future challenges.

(*) Renamed as ROV Zonnebloem on the occasion of the official launch of the VLIZ Marine Robotics Center in September 2019. This underwater robot was previously named ROV Genesis. With the naming of its underwater robots, VLIZ wants to honor the ingenious inventors and professors from famous Belgian comic series. Professor Zonnebloem (Professor Calculus) is a character from the series Tintin by cartoonist Hergé. Professor Barabas plays in the comic series Suske and Wiske by Willy Vandersteen. Professor Adhemar is the young genius from the comic series Nero by Marc Sleen.

(**) The Glider was donated by VUB in 2021. The glider was completely refurbished with new sensors and new battery pack. More information on the press release.

Staff members:

Head of division and contact: Wieter Boone

Staff members

Do you have any questions regarding the Marine Robotics Centre or one of its components? Contact: