Oceaneering International Inc. announced recently that its Aerospace and Defense Technologies (ADTech) business segment has been awarded a contract by the Defense Innovation Unit (DIU), a U.S. Department of Defense organization, for the development and testing of the Freedom Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV) as a potential Large Displacement Unmanned Undersea Vehicle (LDUUV) prototype for the U.S. Navy’s Program Office for Advanced Undersea Systems.

The contract includes a Manufacturing Readiness Review to assess current production capacity and tradeoffs that could be performed to speed LDUUV capabilities to the fleet.

The Freedom AUV recently completed a five-year test and development program, culminating in commercial operations beginning in 2023.

Oceaneering states that the Freedom design incorporates unique features that make it well suited for commercial and defense operations, including its multi-thruster design which provides six degrees of freedom in vehicle maneuverability.

With eight independent thrusters, Freedom supports mission success with its ability to conduct low altitude, precision operations in complex, critical subsea infrastructure environments, the company said.

“Oceaneering is pleased to have been selected by the U.S. Navy and the DIU for this program supporting the development of LDUUV capabilities,” Martin McDonald, senior vice president, subsea robotics, said in a statement. “The Freedom AUV offers the flexibility needed to support mission critical operations, and we are delighted to be recognized for the flexibility Freedom offers and its suitability to support an LDUUV prototype.”

Oceaneering relied on its remotely operated vehicle (ROV) database, encompassing over six million hours of operation, to identify several technology building blocks (thrusters, connectors, batteries, etc.) that are key to the performance and reliability of the Freedom AUV system. These technology building blocks were designed and tested to provide Freedom with a prolonged maintenance-free operating period, which enables sustained subsea operations.

Long duration, reliable performance in subsea environments requires mature maintenance and logistics systems. The Freedom AUV uses the same maintenance and logistics systems used by Oceaneering’s fleet of work class ROVs, the largest in the world, which last year performed over 450,000 hours of subsea robotic services.


Ben Hayden is a Maine resident who grew up in the shipyards of northern Massachusetts. He can be reached at (207) 842-5430 and [email protected].