Mobile Sensor Network for Autonomous and Large-Area Underwater Localization and Identification of Hazards in Ports and Inland Waters

Fact Sheet

Prof. Dr.-Ing. Bernd-Christian Renner
Jan Heitmann
Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF)
09/16 - 11/18
University of Lübeck and Sea & Sun Technology GmbH, Trappenkamp and Behörde für Umwelt und Energie der Stadt Hamburg (associated)


The protection of waters and port areas is monitored by local authorities. Essential tasks encompass disaster management and the initiation of immediate countermeasures; e.g., after accidents with toxic chemicals that pose a harm for the public (contamination of drinking water etc.). Due to their high cost, manual measurements and diver operation are only triggered and conducted upon a concrete threat or suspicion. Automatic measurements by small, inexpensive and autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs) have the potential to eliminate this deficiency. They hence contribute essentially to public safety and the protection of action forces in case of an emergency or disaster.

Goals and Contributions

The principal goals of the project are the conception and research of a technical system of a swarm of small, agile, and inexpensive underwater vehicles equipped with task-specific sensors; e.g., to detect oil or toxic chemicals in the water body. For this purpose, three main contributions are made by the project partners. Firstly, novel und unique miniature sensors are developed. Secondly, swarm behavior and intelligent task planning and execution algorithsm are proposed and researched. Thirdly, underwater communication and localization methods and algorithms are devised and investigated. Within the project, we will also develop a function demonstrator for experiments in the Hamburg Port basins and inshore waters.

Innovations and Perspectives

The investigated system is --- due its easy handling, mobility, flexibility and its samrt precision sensors --- highly innovative. The combination of swarm behavior and underwater self-localization based on inexpensive hardware is an unique selling point and promises pivotal research results.Due to the involvement of local authorities of the city of Hamburg (dt., Behörde für Umwelt und Energie der Stadt Hamburg), the system will already fulfill market requirements. The system will also be suitable for application in limnic waters at dams and automatic depth tracking of waterways.


  • Jan Heitmann and Christian Renner (2018). Poster: Self-Localization of Micro AUVs Using a Low-Power, Low-Cost Acoustic Modem. Proceedings of the 4th ACM Workshop on Micro Aerial Vehicle Networks, Systems, and Applications Munich, Germany [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]

  • Christian Renner (2017). Packet-Based Ranging with a Low-Power, Low-Cost Acoustic Modem for Micro AUVs. Proceedings of the 11th International ITG Conference on Systems, Communications and Coding Hamburg, Germany

  • Jan Heitmann, Lucas Bublitz, Timo Kortbrae and Christian Renner (2017). Evolution of an Acoustic Modem for Micro AUVs. Proceedings of the 16th GI/ITG KuVS Fachgespräch "Sensornetze" Hamburg, Germany [www]

  • Christian Renner and Alexander J. Golkowski (2016). Acoustic Modem for Micro AUVs: Design and Practical Evaluation. Proceedings of the 11th ACM International Conference on Underwater Networks & Systems Shanghai, China [www]