Abigail Klein Leichman, Israel 21
19 December 2017
Under the surface of waterways across the globe, small
remotely operated submarines are busy checking pipelines,
mapping underwater minefields, taking geological and
biological samples, scouting locations for communication
cables, and searching for sunken vessels.
A group of 20 undergraduate and graduate engineering
students from Ben-Gurion University in the Negev saw that
existing autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs) have
several limitations and they worked with Prof. Hugo
Guterman in BGU’s Laboratory for Autonomous Robotics
(LAR) to build a better model.
The university’s tech-transfer company is so hyped
about HydroCamel II, the resulting prototype, that it has
spun out a dedicated company, BGR, to commercialize the
Potential customers include the
environmental, research, military, security, oil and gas
“It’s like a car; you can use it for any application you
like,” Guterman tells ISRAEL21c.
HydroCamel II is equipped with an intelligent
navigation system whose functions include mission
planning, obstacle avoidance and decision-making.
Guterman says HydroCamel II is superior to any AUV
available in Israel and among the most advanced in the
Unhappy with existing AUVs, his lab team designed a
small prototype about four years ago, dubbed HydroCamel
I, which could go down to a 100-meter underwater depth.
Experimenting with that model led to HydroCamel II — a
relatively small, cheap, easy-to-operate UAV capable of
connecting among several platforms.
“We wanted to build something that could be deployed
from smaller ships or from the harbor without a problem.
We also wanted something that could be in the water for a
long time and take a large number of sensors onboard,”
“The HydroCamel II AUV integrates state-of-the-art
technologies including high-level maneuvering in six
degrees of freedom and an ability to dive vertically or
hover,” he explains. “Until now, these capabilities were
limited to remotely operated underwater vehicles (ROVs),
which must be tethered by cable to a host ship at all times,
while the HydroCamel II is completely autonomous.”
The vehicle, whose body is constructed of the same
carbon compound used in airplanes, can be recharged
underwater. “We have developed a lot of electronics for the
inside of the HydroCamel II,” Guterman says.
Cheaper and better
According to the makers, the HydroCamel II AUV
combines full autonomy and maneuverability while
enabling quick integration of specialized payloads such as
sonars, cameras, sensors and a specimen collection arm.
Guterman says these payloads are more expensive than
the vehicle itself.
“HydroCamel II will cost less than a competitive
platform but will be much better,” says Guterman. “In the
future, when it is in mass production, the price could be
BGR has begun cooperation with payload
manufacturers and is seeking investment partners.
Tzvika Goldner, CEO of the new commercialization
entity headquartered in Beersheva’s Advanced
Technologies Park adjacent to the university, notes that the
worldwide AUV market is expected to reach $1.2 billion by
Research shows this sector is growing annually by
22% due to increased sea-based security measures and
offshore oil and gas production.
“We believe HydroCamel II will expand the AUV
customer base and enable us to deploy AUVs in new
areas,” said Goldner.
Guterman envisions a large number of the new AUVs
deployed in Red and Mediterranean Seas, working 24/7 to
gather and transmit a wide variety of underwater data to a
wide variety of operators.
He says that no matter where a commercial partner is
based, production and R&D for HydroCamel II will remain
in the Negev, “where we have the right manpower and