DFKI RIC – Deutsches Forschungszentrum für Künstliche Intelligenz GmbH (Robotics Innovation Center)

The Robotics Innovation Center (RIC) belongs to the Bremen location of the German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence (DFKI GmbH). Headed by Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. Frank Kirchner, here scientists develop robot systems for over more than a decade to be used for complex tasks on land, under water, in the air, and in space.  

Particularly, the team Maritime Robotics aims to explore and develop complex autonomous and intelligent robotic systems that operate under water.  The team puts its research focus on the use of machine learning and state-of-the-art navigation for the development of complex systems that are able to defy the harsh maritime conditions. All of this leads into the central theme for the future in maritime robotics research: the manipulation and management of infrastructure and operational environments by autonomous robotic systems.   

Goals to be achieved

The main goal of DFKI RIC group within TRIPLE-nanoAUV is to work together with other partners on the conceptual design and validation of a robust and reliable localization and perception system of the nanoAUV for the safe execution of the mission, taking into considerations critical aspects such as energy requirements, miniaturization and sensor performance.  

Tasks within the project

Contribution to the localization system of the nanoAUV: 

  • Selection and integration of suitable sensors and methods for localizing the nanoAUV relative to the melting probe during exploration.  
  • Identification and integration of an AI-based motion model to support the nanoAUV’s GNC system to increase robustness and reliability despite the expected nanoAUV’s low sensory capabilities. 
  • Development of in-situ model adaptation strategies to cope with the unknown and changeable environmental conditions in subglacial lakes that have been until now unexplored by mankind. 

Contribution to the perception system of the nanoAUV:  

  • Selection and integration of suitable sensors and methods for the nanoAUV’s perception of the environment  during exploration, mainly to avoid obstacles during navigation, explore the ice as well as the seabed, and detect the docking station.
  • Conceptual design for AI-based multimodal perception, especially with regard to the harsh environmental conditions to be expected and the high degree of miniaturization required
  • Investigation of new sensory concepts that might enable a reduction in conventional sensory equipments for underwater perception.  For example, generating a depth image of the nanoAUV’s front view from raw data of the intended acoustic positioning system (USBL) using machine learning methods. 

Preliminary work

Within a large number of research and industrial projects, the DFKI RIC group has developed several robotic systems and AI technologies for undetware applications, gaining high valuable experience and know-how in underwater navigation and perception. Furthermore, the DFKI RIC group has worked in the past decade on several projects for the DLR explorer initiative: 

In the Europa-Explorer (EurEx) project (BMWi, FKZ 50 NA 1217), a possible missions to Jupiter’s moon Europa was developed and implemented as a proof of concept. Here, the autonomous underwater vehicle Leng and the docking station IceShuttle Teredo were developed as well as the technologies for autonomy and navigation required by such complex mission.

Leng docking to the IceShuttle Tredo in the saltwater basin of the Maritime Exploration Hall of the DFKI. (Photo: Annemarie Popp, DFKI GmbH)

In the following projects EurEx-SiLaNa (BMWi, FKZ 50 NA 1704) and EurEx-LUNa (BMWi, FKZ 50 NA 2002), the autonomous capabilities of the systems to reliably navigate over long periods of time were improved, as this is key to successfully execute such complex missions with limited infrastructure and instrumentation. In these Projects, a second version of the AUV Leng, the DeepLeng, was developed to reduce the size of the previous system and enable deeper mission ranges .

The two autonomous underwater vehicles Leng (back) and its successor DeepLeng (front) at the Maritime Exploration Hall at DFKI RIC in Bremen. (Photo: Philipp Kloss, DFKI GmbH)

Additionally, the miniaturized autonomous underwater vehicle AUVx was developed within the DAEDALUS project (BMWi, FKZ 50 NA 1312). The AUVx (393 x 188 x 200 mm³ ) is the third version of a series of miniaturized underwater vehicles developed in DFKI RIC, after the µAUV and µAUV². Its shape as well as equipment is specifically designed to meet the requirements of the Europa Explorer mission, developed within the EurEx projects. 

Points of Contact

Miguel Bande Firvida (DFKI Project Leader), miguel.bande_firvida@dfki.de
Bilal Wehbe (Underwater model-based navigation expert), bilal.wehbe@dfki.de
Leif Christensen (Head of the DFKI Martime Team), leif.christensen@dfki.de