5 budding engineers create submersible submarine-cleaning drone in just 6 weeks

“Five strangers were pulled together” in an engineering challenge to find a solution to a real-world problem.
Baba Tamim
Engineers presenting their "ScrubMarine," a submersible cleaning drone.
Engineers presenting their "ScrubMarine," a submersible cleaning drone.


Engineering researchers of an innovative academy program have designed a Submersible Remotely Operated Vehicle (SROV) in a span of six weeks after accepting the U.K. Navy's challenge.

The five young engineers, who were part of the first cohort of the newly launched Co-Lab Engineering Academy, presented a concept design of their "ScrubMarine," a submersible cleaning drone.

"I was skeptical at first that we could pull off such an ambitious project within the timeframe," said Dylan Brennan, project team lead, a nuclear graduate working for Jacobs. 

"But the way that five strangers were pulled together and given the guidance required to produce something [that] has been amazing, and we're all incredibly proud of what we have achieved," expressed Brennan, astounded by his team's progress. 

The SROV, which will be used to clean biofouling from submarines and shipping vessels, will include specialist cleaning nozzles that induce cavitation to remove the biofouling, controlled from a remote distance.

This will reduce the need for divers to carry out cleaning work and will result in reduced cleaning costs, easier deployment, longer operational times, and increased availability compared to existing methods. 

The academy aims to develop the skills of engineers to benefit the industry and is preparing for its second project, which will focus on developing technology to convert water supplies into electricity in domestic and community settings.

ScrubMarine innovation was presented at an event to cap off a successful first year of the newly established Co-Lab Engineering Academy in December. The institute brings engineers together to work cooperatively to address a real-life industrial need.

The challenge 

The team was challenged to find a way to remove biofouling from the hulls of submarines and ships for the Defense and Security Accelerator (DASA) and the Royal Navy. 

This innovation reduces the need for divers to carry out cleaning work, as well as reducing cleaning costs, making deployment easier, and increasing operational times. Additionally, the submersible will be more readily available than existing methods.

"This has been a really good opportunity to develop the skills of engineers like myself who are early into their careers, and it gave us all the opportunity to take ownership of an entire project, from start to finish," said Thomas Clayton, the project's mechanical lead, an apprentice at Sellafield working toward a mechanical design degree.

"The mentoring, hands-on approach, and freedom to experiment has been so valuable to adapt into our line of work."

Co-Lab Engineering

Clyne, a former Sellafield Solutions Manager, founded Co-Lab Engineering to challenge engineers to collaborate to find a quick solution to a real-world problem within a six-week "sprint" period. 

Identifying the challenge, designing a model, and developing a prototype to present to the challenge owner are all part of this process. 

Clyne was impressed with the first group's teamwork and camaraderie, as well as the ScrubMarine SROV they created at the end of the six weeks.

"Engineering Academy was borne out of a desire to develop the capabilities of engineers to benefit industry for years to come, he said. 

"I couldn't be more proud of the development and progress made by all members of the team during the Academy project, and we are excited about how we can develop the program further to continue improving skills across all industries."

Co-Lab Engineering Academy is gearing up for its second project, which will challenge participants to develop technology to convert water into electricity in domestic and community settings. 

This project, in partnership with Technology Consortia Limited Cumbria, aims to make power generation in the U.K. more sustainable. The next Academy program begins on January 16, with additional projects scheduled for 2023. 

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