Robotic Vessels as-a-Service
Robust and Efficient Mobile Ultrasonic Underwater Communication (SoniCom)

Fact Sheet

Contact Prof. Dr.-Ing. Bernd-Christian Renner
Staff Fabian Steinmetz
Financing Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi)
Duration 06/18 - 05/21
Partners Fraunhofer CML, Hamburg and Hamburg Port Authority and Kraken Robotic, Bremen and University of Padua, Italy and Univeristy of Limerick, Ireland and SonarSim Ltd, Ireland


Continued increase in levels of automation and digitization in all industry sectors constantly improves technological efficiency. Today, waterborne is the largest international transport sector with 90% of transported goods. Globalization and new environmental legislations lead to a rising need for new technological developments for the shipping industry. The global vision of Shipping 4.0 includes integrated smart embedded systems with a high level of autonomy, cloud computing, big data analytics and mobile services. Various initiatives are driving the development of such cyber-physical systems (which already exist in the automotive, aeronautic and manufacturing industry) for the shipping industry to create smart ports/waterways. Another promising technological trend is to offer software, platforms or infrastructure as-a-Service, which allows users to save money, be flexible and always have access to the latest technology. The RoboVaaS Robotic Vessels as-a-Service concept combines these approaches to revolutionize shipping related near-shore operations.

Goals and Contributions

Such a system consists of both surface and underwater vessels to fulfill tasks such as hull inspections, asset monitoring, and data collection. Submerged devices are envisioned to be autonomous with wireless communication and localization facilities in order to report measurements and receive instructions from the management service. Unfortunately, radio communication does not work underwater in general, so that acoustic communication is the method of choice. Here, a particular focus lies on inexpensive devices (both robots and communication) in order to achieve a feasible and affordable system. For this purpose, the smartPORT research group develops light-weight and resilient communication algorithms that will be evaluated through simulation and field-tests with a self-developed, inexpensive, and low-power acoustic underwater modem. Moreover, the modem will be integrated into the HippoCampus AUV (developed at TUHH) in order to run practical experiments and to build a function demonstrator within the RoboVaaS system.

Innovations and Perspectives

The investigated RoboVaaS system is --- due its service-driven aspect and variety of sensors and vehicles --- highly innovative. The development of efficient, light-weight, and resilient algorithms for underwater acoustic communication are a cornerstone of the entire concept and promises real-world research results that will advance the field of inexpensive underwater (swarm) robotics. Due to the involvement of local authorities of the city of Hamburg (Hamburg Port Authority), the system will already fulfill market requirements and will be tested under realistic conditions. Moreover, the involvement of international partners from both industry and academia build a complete consortium to investigate various facets of the system and foster cooperation between the involved parties.


  • F. Steinmetz and C. Renner (2021). From the Long-Range Channel in the Ocean to the Short-Range and very Shallow-Water Acoustic Channel in Ports and Harbors. Proceedings of the Fifth Underwater Communications and Networking Conference Lerici, Italy

  • D.-A. Duecker and F. Steinmetz and E. Kreuzer and C. Renner (2020). Micro AUV Localization for Agile Navigation with Low-cost Acoustic Modems. Proceedings of the IEEE/OES Autonomous Undewater Vehicles Symposium St. Johns, Canada

  • Alberto Signori, Filippo Campagnaro, Fabian Steinmetz, Bernd-Christian Renner, and Michele Zorzi (2019). Data Gathering from a Multimodal Dense Underwater Acoustic Sensor Network Deployed in Shallow Fresh Water Scenarios. Journal of Sensor and Actuator Networks. 8. (4), 55 [www]

  • Fabian Steinmetz and Christian Renner (2019). Resilience against Shipping Noise and Interference in Low-Power Acoustic Underwater Communication. Proceedings of the MTS/IEEE Oceans Conference and Exposition Seattle, WA, USA [www]

  • Fabian Steinmetz and Christian Renner (2019). Resilience against Shipping Noise and Interference of the AHOI Acoustic Underwater Modem. Proceedings of the 18th GI/ITG KuVS Fachgespräch "Sensornetze" Magdeburg, Germany [www]

  • Filippo Campagnaro, Fabian Steinmetz, Alberto Signori, Davide Zordan, Christian Renner, and Michele Zorzi (2019). Data Collection in Shallow Fresh Water Scenarios with Low-Cost Underwater Acoustic Modems. Proceedings of the 5th International Conference and Exhibition on Underwater Acoustics Hersonissos, Crete, Greece

  • Alberto Signori, Fabian Steinmetz, Filippo Campagnaro, Davide Zordan, Michele Zorzi, and Christian Renner (2018). Poster: Underwater Communications for the Robotic Vessels as-a-Servic Project. Proceedings of the 13th ACM International Conference on Underwater Networks & Systems Shenzhen, China [www]

  • Jan Heitmann, Fabian Steinmetz and Christian Renner (2018). Self-Localization of Micro AUVs Using a Low-Power, Low-Cost Acoustic Modem. Proceedings of the OCEANS 2018 Charleston, SC, USA [www]

  • Jan Heitmann, Fabian Steinmetz and Christian Renner (2018). A Case for Chirp Modulation for Low-Power Acoustic Communication in Shallow Waters. Proceedings of the 17th GI/ITG KuVS Fachgespräch "Sensornetze" Braunschweig, Germany [www]