Collaborative research project receives funding for new modular underwater vehicle

The second phase of the Modifiable Underwater Mothership (MUM) project has now been initiated following the handing down of a funding decision by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy. In the presence of all six partner organizations, Norbert Brackmann, the German government's coordinator for the maritime industry, presented the funding notification at the thyssenkrupp Marine Systems shipyard in Kiel. Alexander Nies of the Fraunhofer FKIE Cyber Analysis & Defense department attended the ceremony on behalf of the institute.

© thyssenkrupp Marine Systems
Planned scenario in the deep sea.
© thyssenkrupp Marine Systems
The new class of vehicle in the field of underwater technology.

The four-year project aims to develop a new class of vehicle in the field of underwater technology that is both modular and unmanned which will be deployed for the  exploration and resource-saving use of the world's oceans.

»The sea is not only a place for our relaxation and recreation, but it is also increasingly becoming an economic area. It provides food, raw materials and wind energy. Pipelines and cables run along the seabed, and maritime infrastructure has to be built and maintained. With MUM vehicles – so-called extra-large unmanned underwater vehicles – this work can be carried out in a safer, faster and more cost-effective manner. In this way, Germany's highly innovative marine technology is making an important contribution to the sustainable and environmentally friendly use of the oceans and making a contribution to successfully mastering the challenges of climate change. This is innovation made in Germany that will enable us to compete internationally from a position of strength and open up new markets for us,« explained Norbert Brackmann at the funding notification event.

The funding is part of the Maritime Research Program, a Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy scheme supporting the development of innovative maritime technologies. In the current project phase, a large demonstrator vehicle will be developed, built and tested by early 2025.

As a partner in the collaboration, Fraunhofer FKIE is responsible for cyber security in the new multipurpose underwater vehicle being developed. This includes the remote-control system as well as the autonomous operation system and protects the vehicle from theft, destruction, as well as sabotage and misuse.

During its development, risk analysis will systematically examine the vulnerability of the underwater vehicle to cyber attacks. This analysis will then be used as the basis for deriving attack scenarios and requirements for the system in order to provide the best possible protection against such attacks. In addition, a customized development, simulation, and test environment will be implemented. In addition to prevention of such cyber attacks, detection and response to potential attacks are of course also on the FKIE scientists' agenda, making cyber security an integral part of the new deep sea vehicle class from the very beginning.

»For Fraunhofer FKIE, the MUM project is an excellent opportunity to demonstrate that we also have expertise in the field of civilian maritime research. The fact that cybersecurity has such a key role in the project demonstrates the central importance of IT security measures in all areas of advanced research,« emphasized Professor Dr. Peter Martini, Head of Institute at Fraunhofer FKIE.

The total volume of the collaborative project is some €35 million, €22 million of which will come from the BMWi. MUM is expected to set the new standard for unmanned underwater operations by early 2025 and will be used for a range of applications in the civilian maritime industry. Examples include the transport and deployment of payloads, offshore energy applications and the exploration of difficult-to-access sea areas, such as the Arctic ice regions.

© thyssenkrupp Marine Systems