Development of an Unmanned Mobile Current Turbine Platform: Preprint

M. Dhanak, P.-P. Beaujean, J. Frankenfield, A. Hall, E. Henderson, A. McKinney, H. Pimentel, T. T. Tran

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper


The design and development of a prototype unmanned mobile floating platform, equipped with a custom low-flow marine current turbine for autonomously seeking and harnessing tidal/coastal currents is described. The platform is an unmanned surface vehicle in the form of a catamaran with two electric outboard motors and capabilities for autonomous navigation. An undershot water wheel, aided by a custom flow concentrator, has been selected as the basic design for the marine current turbine, which is mounted on the stern of the unmanned surface vehicle platform. The concept of operation is that the platform would navigate to a designated marine current resource, autonomously anchor at the location, align itself in the current and deploy the current turbine using a custom cable-lift deployment mechanism. As the turbine harnesses the local current, an onboard power-take-off device converts the harnessed mechanical energy to electricity which is stored in onboard batteries. Considerations of deployment in tidal and coastal waters required obtaining the necessary environmental permits for conducting in-water testing; developing required mitigation measures in protecting local wildlife and their habitats; and identifying potential in-water test sites and surveying them for their suitability in terms of the current resource, bottom type, water depth, and local boat traffic. The design and development of the turbine and the results of initial in-water testing are discussed. The potential for scaling up the system for extended capacity is presented.
Original languageAmerican English
Number of pages10
StatePublished - 2023
EventEuropean Wave and Tidal Energy Conference (EWTEC) - Bilbao, Spain
Duration: 3 Sep 20237 Sep 2023


ConferenceEuropean Wave and Tidal Energy Conference (EWTEC)
CityBilbao, Spain

Bibliographical note

See NREL/CP-5700-87595 for paper as published in proceedings

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/CP-5700-86890


  • low-flow current turbine
  • power take-off device
  • unmanned surface platform


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