Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Project EurEx-LUNa: DFKI in Bremen prepares underwater robot for field trials in space research


Could Jupiter’s moon Europa offer the right conditions for extraterrestrial life? How could the ocean, which is suspected under the sheet of several kilometers of ice, be investigated? In the Europa Explorer project series, the German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence (DFKI) is developing underwater robots that can autonomously conduct research under ice. With the third project section on the long-term under-ice navigation, the last preparations for the field trials in Scandinavia are underway. The German Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi) funds the development and field trials of the robot DeepLeng with roughly 877,000 Euro.

In an ocean covered by an up to 15 kilometer thick sheet of ice that is located on Europa, one of the moons of Jupiter, in an average distance of 600 million kilometers – this is where it could be found: Extraterrestrial lie.

The two autonomous underwater robots Leng (back) and his successor DeepLeng (front) can be seen in the Maritime Exploration Hall at the Robotics Innovation Center of the DFKI in Bremen.

Philipp Kloss / DFKI GmbH

A view of the mechanics of the new autonomous underwater robot DeepLeng.

Annemarie Popp / DFKI GmbH

The warmth and minerals of the hydrothermal vents, which are suspected to exist on the ice moon, offer a potential habitat for organisms. But how could this place be investigated? As part of the Explorer-Initiative of the German Aerospace Center (DLR), the Robotics Innovation Center in Bremen as developed fully autonomous underwater robots that can navigate and conduct research below a sheet of ice.

With the third section of the Europa Explorer project involving long-term under-ice navigation (EurEx-LUNa), which started on 1 March 2020, the last steps are underway to test the latest autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) in field trials:

DeepLeng, the successor of the first EurEx-AUV Leng, is set to prove the feasibility of the concept for autonomous navigation under ice in a frozen lake in Scandinavia. In preparation, the robot is equipped with a new diving cell and trained for its safe return.

Safe docking and a small risk of loss for the field trials

Risk minimization is the central aspect of the EurEx-LUNa project: Apart from the unknown underwater surroundings, the sheet of ice adds another challenge for the localization and the safe return of the AUV. For this reason, DeepLeng is taught to be able to find its way back even under the most adverse circumstances.

The researchers of the DFKI Robotics Innovation Center are working on a fault tree for the software, which offers alternative decisions for DeepLeng to make in as many scenarios as possible. In addition to a new diving cell, which allows the AUV to sink to and rise from depths of up to 2,000 meters with little energy expenditure, a USBL underwater navigation system is installed that sends, receives and analyses acoustic signals.

An important part of the field trials is the successful docking: In the navigation concept for the ice moon Europa, the three-meter-long and 28 centimeter wide DeepLeng is meant to autonomously reach a docking station and connect to it safely. By doing this, the AUV can conduct much longer research missions than his ten-hour-battery would allow for.

With space for two additional payload modules, DeepLeng can transport and employ further sensoric components for diverse additional research in the ocean on the ice moon. An example would be the creation of altitude maps or profiles of the temperature and salinity of the water.

From the test basin via the local lake to Scandinavia

In order to allow for the safe docking, the scientists are employing methods of Deep Reinforced Learning with which the software of the AUV weighing 120 kilograms is trained in a simulation. The first tests under water will be conducted in the Maritime Exploration Hall of the Robotics Innovation Center, which is unique in Europe and offers plenty of space with its 3.4 million liter saltwater basin.

In the second step, the robot explores the University lake of Bremen, before the actual field trials in Scandinavia take place in early 2022. Another deployment in the new test field of the Test Center for Maritime Technologies near Heligoland in the North Sea, which the DFKI is operating together with the Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing Technology and Advanced Materials IFAM, the Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht – Centre for Materials and Coastal Research (HZG), the Institute for Chemistry and Biology of the Marine Environment (ICBM) at the University of Oldenburg and Jacobs University Bremen, is considered in preparation for the field trials.

After the field trials, the gathered information and insights from the navigation will be evaluated in order to employ them in future projects which one day could lead to an actual search for extraterrestrial life on Jupiter’s ice moon Europa by autonomous robot teams. The German Federal Ministry of Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi) is therefore funding the EurEx-LUNa project with roughly 877,000 Euros over a runtime of two years and three months.


At you can find photos of the robot systems ready for download. You may use these photos for your publication in relation to the described project while stating the photo sources mentioned in the document.

DFKI Contact

Dipl.-Inf. Sascha Arnold
German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence (DFKI)
Robotics Innovation Center
Phone: +49 421 17845 4197

DFKI Press Contact

German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence (DFKI)
Team Corporate Communications Bremen
Phone: +49 421 178 45 4180

Jens Peter Kückens DFKI Bremen | idw - Informationsdienst Wissenschaft
Further information:

More articles from Information Technology:

nachricht Project AUTOASSERT: DFKI scientists develop software tool for the support of German electronics companies
07.07.2020 | Deutsches Forschungszentrum für Künstliche Intelligenz GmbH, DFKI

nachricht Genetic code for stem cell heart repair detected
06.07.2020 | Universität Rostock

All articles from Information Technology >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Excitation of robust materials

Kiel physics team observed extremely fast electronic changes in real time in a special material class

In physics, they are currently the subject of intensive research; in electronics, they could enable completely new functions. So-called topological materials...

Im Focus: Electrons in the fast lane

Solar cells based on perovskite compounds could soon make electricity generation from sunlight even more efficient and cheaper. The laboratory efficiency of these perovskite solar cells already exceeds that of the well-known silicon solar cells. An international team led by Stefan Weber from the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research (MPI-P) in Mainz has found microscopic structures in perovskite crystals that can guide the charge transport in the solar cell. Clever alignment of these "electron highways" could make perovskite solar cells even more powerful.

Solar cells convert sunlight into electricity. During this process, the electrons of the material inside the cell absorb the energy of the light....

Im Focus: The lightest electromagnetic shielding material in the world

Empa researchers have succeeded in applying aerogels to microelectronics: Aerogels based on cellulose nanofibers can effectively shield electromagnetic radiation over a wide frequency range – and they are unrivalled in terms of weight.

Electric motors and electronic devices generate electromagnetic fields that sometimes have to be shielded in order not to affect neighboring electronic...

Im Focus: Gentle wall contact – the right scenario for a fusion power plant

Quasi-continuous power exhaust developed as a wall-friendly method on ASDEX Upgrade

A promising operating mode for the plasma of a future power plant has been developed at the ASDEX Upgrade fusion device at Max Planck Institute for Plasma...

Im Focus: ILA Goes Digital – Automation & Production Technology for Adaptable Aircraft Production

Live event – July 1, 2020 - 11:00 to 11:45 (CET)
"Automation in Aerospace Industry @ Fraunhofer IFAM"

The Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing Technology and Advanced Materials IFAM l Stade is presenting its forward-looking R&D portfolio for the first time at...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Industry & Economy
Event News

Contact Tracing Apps against COVID-19: German National Academy Leopoldina hosts international virtual panel discussion

07.07.2020 | Event News

International conference QuApps shows status quo of quantum technology

02.07.2020 | Event News

Dresden Nexus Conference 2020: Same Time, Virtual Format, Registration Opened

19.05.2020 | Event News

Latest News

Researchers create air filter that can kill the coronavirus

08.07.2020 | Health and Medicine

A novel active photonic wireless system to power medical implants

08.07.2020 | Medical Engineering

On-chip spin-Hall nanograting for simultaneously detecting phase and polarization singularities

08.07.2020 | Physics and Astronomy

Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>