The Ford Model T wasn't the first car to ever be commercially available, but it was one of the very first to be mass-produced. This meant that its price could be kept relatively low, allowing for purchase by people who would otherwise have never been able to afford an automobile. Well, the DEDAVE could be to autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs) what the Model T was to cars. Created by Germany's Fraunhofer Institute for Optronics, System Technologies and Image Exploitation, it's claimed to be "the world's first autonomous underwater vehicle to be developed from the outset with a view to series production."

According to Fraunhofer, most existing AUVs are highly expensive because they're built to order, plus they're heavy and technically very complex inside. The DEDAVE (Deep Diving AUV for Exploration), however, is said to address these problems.

Although no actual pricing information has been provided, the untethered vehicle will apparently be much less expensive than other AUVs, thanks largely to its automobile-industry-inspired assembly line production process. At less than 700 kg (1,543 lb), it's likewise fairly light and thus easier to handle when slung from a crane on a ship's deck – as just one example of another AUV's weight, Lockheed Martin's Marlin Mk3 tips the scales at 954 kg (2,098 lb).

Additionally, unlike most of its competitors, the DEDAVE doesn't have a confusing heap of electrical cables running between all of its internal components. Instead, once again borrowing from the auto industry, it utilizes a controller area network (CAN bus) to vastly reduce the amount of wiring required. Not only does this make it lighter and easier to service, but it also reduces the likelihood of faults such as short circuits or loose connections.

Power is provided by eight batteries, which can be quickly removed and replaced for charging. A full charge allows for up to 20 hours of autonomous travel, diving to a maximum depth of 6,000 meters (19,685 ft). An integrated 1-m (3.3-ft)-long cargo bay allows for the installation of multiple sensors, depending on the specific application.

As an added benefit, four of the 3.5-m (11.5-ft)-long AUVs can fit in a single shipping container. This means that industrial or scientific users could bring multiple DEDAVEs on an expedition, allowing them to cover search/study several areas of the ocean at once.

Plans now call for deep-water testing off the coast of Gran Canaria island in Spain, before production begins by a Fraunhofer spin-off company.

Sources: Fraunhofer, DEDAVE

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