DEDAVE – an intrapreneurial project by the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft

Fraunhofer is the largest applied research organisation in Europe. It receives public funding from the German federal government and states for basic research projects, and conducts publicly financed joint research projects in collaboration with small and large firms, as well as contract research for private industrial customers. These commissioned research projects are conducted for both large enterprises and small, mid-sized businesses. Fraunhofer gained worldwide recognition after scientists in one of its institutes invented the patented MP3 audio compression system and its follow-up formats – an invention that changed the music and entertainment industry and the way in which we use music and audio forever.

The last few years, many large firms no longer realise innovations in-house or subcontract them out, but instead buy up small, already successful start-ups to add their innovations to their own product portfolio. To avoid that Fraunhofer business being negatively impacted by this trend, the Fraunhofer Board of Directors has been testing an in-house programme, whereby innovations are realised autonomously and developed to market maturity at Fraunhofer’s own expenses. One of the projects included in this programme is the development of DEDAVE.

The goal of this programme and of the DEDAVE project at the Fraunhofer IOSB is to benefit from the speed, agility and drive of a start-up and to combine these strengths with the quality management, financial power and sound structure of the entire Fraunhofer organisation, which enables us despite limited resources to compete with large market players.


Scientists at the Fraunhofer IOSB in Ilmenau and Karlsruhe have been studying and developing underwater robots and sonar systems for over 10 years. Since 2014, the IOSB team in Ilmenau can count on another few extra decades of experience in the form of two production and quality managers from the Berlin area, who are assisting us in the joint development of a stable, robust and versatile autonomous deep-sea vessel.

Our technical development team is currently led by:

  • Prof. Dr. Thomas Rauschenbach, Head of the Fraunhofer Application Centre System Technology Ilmenau of the IOSB Fraunhofer Institute:
    Overall Project Manager, Head of Technical Development
  • Dr. Gunnar Brink, Head of Strategy and Innovation Management of the IOSB Fraunhofer Institute in Karlsruhe, Ettlingen, Ilmenau and Lemgo:
    Head of Business Development, Marketing and Sales

Our team is looking to expand the management team by recruiting ambitious sales and finance managers, who are willing to go the extra mile to make DEDAVE a success and who will put all their energy and intelligence into the project.

Our product

DEDAVE is an efficient autonomous navigation carrier platform in the shape similar to the well-known space shuttles, which can be used for

  • Underwater research applications
  • Planning the relocation of submarine cables and inspecting them during operation
  • Coast guard activities
  • Deep-sea mining
  • The deep-sea oil and gas industry

DEDAVE can be used as a universal carrier for almost all sonars designed for underwater use, including multibeam echosounders, side-scan sonars, synthetic aperture sonars as well as magnetometers and a range of other sensors. Thanks to its unique design and high energy capacity, it can operate at a maximum depth of 6000 meters and complete missions lasting up to 20 hours. Relatively small in size, this flexible vehicle can be used on-board both small and larger ships and in a variety of settings.

Its modular and depressurised or free-flooded structure allow DEDAVE to meet even the most challenging of demands that could otherwise only be performed by larger, wider, more expensive and significantly heavier underwater robots.

DEDAVE’s small and highly flexible structure differs entirely from the torpedo shapes usually found in this kind of product. Its unique design consists of an open titanium support frame, which is the basis for a space shuttle-like inner and outer shape. Because the weight of the frame and the payload is offset by pressure-resistant syntactic foam, DEDAVE automatically floats in the water.

The hold of the vessel is extremely large and spacious. In addition, all of the shuttle is flooded with the surrounding water, thus eliminating the need for pressurised encasing of the overall system, which would otherwise make it heavy and awkward to use. Each subsystem is individually encased in pressure-proof housing to protect it against the water pressure and corrosion caused by saltwater.

The shuttle design allows almost any kind of payload or sensor to be quickly added to the vessel, and the patented battery module included in the design can be replaced in less than no time.

During manufacturing, all components are thoroughly tested in our pressure chamber, which runs pressure tests of up to 1200 bar and intelligent pressure cycles, and are subsequently passed through our internal quality management system.


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Fraunhofer Institute of Optronics, System Technologies and Image Exploitation IOSB
Dr. Gunnar Brink
Head of Strategy and Innovation Management
Fraunhoferstr. 1
76131 Karlsruhe, Germany

Advanced System Technology (AST)  Branch of Fraunhofer IOSB
Am Vogelherd 50

98693 Ilmenau
Phone +49 3677 461-0
Fax +49 3677 461-100
Sabine Bartnik

Prof. Dr. Thomas Rauschenbach
Phone +49 3677 461-124