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First tests from diving robot demonstrator

The SDRZ DDPS is investigating how underwater robots can support divers of the Kommando KAMIR in their wide scope of activities. In February of this year, the first joint test was performed successfully with a research demonstrator. The potential of robotics was demonstrated and valuable information on aligning research activities was obtained.

28.05.2020 | armasuisse Science and Technology, Kai Holtmann SDRZ DDPS & Reto Schaffner Kommando KAMIR

Research demonstrator test with members of the diving group of Kommando KAMIR in Lake Thun

An information exchange and an initial test with a diving robot demonstrator took place at the beginning of this year in Spiez. amasuisse’s Swiss Drone and Robotics Centre (SDRZ DDPS), the Explosive Ordnance Disposal and Mine Clearance commando (Kommando KAMIR) and students of the project “Tethys Robotics” from the ETH Zurich all took part. The goal of the meeting in Spiez was to present the interim results of the research collaboration to the diving group of the Commando KAMIR and to define the next steps.

Explosive ordnance disposal on and in the water

The Kommando KAMIR’s scope of tasks is very varied – in addition to military explosive ordnance disposal operations, they are also deployed for humanitarian mine clearance, where they support peace-building operations. This includes, for example, finding and retrieving ammunition and its residue, disposing of explosive ordnance and refurbishing firing ranges and target zones. Some of this work takes place under water. This work might include logistics activities, such as material transport to the location of the event under water and the hoisting of explosive ordnance to the surface of the water.

Robotics to support the divers

The divers’ work is, for the most part, extremely demanding, but also includes more simple repetitive and time-consuming subtasks – ideal for the deployment of robots. A robot cannot replace the divers but supports them on a selective basis and enhances new skills.

Possible examples are obtaining reconnaissance data, surveying the subsurface for underwater cartography and implementing transportation tasks. This type of support could relieve the divers and ensure that more of the valuable breathing air under water is available to perform the divers’ key tasks.

Research cooperation between the SDRZ DDPS and the diving group of the Kommando KAMIR

The research project is a collaboration between the SDRZ DDPS and the teaching association Genie/Rettung/ABC (LVb G/Rttg/ABC) as well as the ETH Zurich. The project examines the use of a new type of underwater robot for the benefit of the diving group of the Kommando KAMIR.

When the interim results were presented in February 2020, the current research demonstrator was introduced and possible deployment scenarios as well as corresponding requirements were discussed. Technical requirements include a diving depth of 150 metres and the grasping of objects with 35 millimetre diameter. In addition, the underwater robot should be able to navigate autonomously and independently of GPS from the starting point to the destination, as well as to map the subsurface by sonar. Battery-driven deployment of the current cable-based robot is also planned.

Deployment in watercourses

In addition to activities in lakes, some activities also take place in watercourses. One of the greatest challenges of this type of deployment is the current. While a diver should be focusing on their main task, they also need to be fighting against the current. Occasionally this might even be so strong that diving becomes completely impossible.

Within the research project, additional improvements to the underwater robot are therefore being examined for deployment in watercourses with strong currents.

To this end, a flow-optimised body is being designed, which should enable energy-efficient deployment and simple manoeuvring as much as possible. In order to enable stationary work to be performed in strong currents, a powerful drive system and the corresponding regulation for automatic compensation of the flow effects is being developed. The additional challenge here is that, at ground level, very little or even no turbulence may be generated, so as not to cloud the view under water.


The new research demonstrator should be completed this year. It should be tested and further improved together with the members of the diving group of the Kommando KAMIR. This close, practical cooperation enables the research to be appropriately aligned to the goals and needs of the KAMIR divers.

The SDRZ Team will be pleased to answer your questions. Please write to or call 058 484 61 47.

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