Emission-free autonomous towing system
(11/2021 – 04/2024)

The aim of this research topic is to develop a concept for the increased use of inland waterways by inland freight transport. This involves providing a modern version of an old transport system, towage, taking into account modern drive and control technology. This will be made possible by modern tractor systems, i.e. autonomously operating lafettes or tractors on a rail system similar to a guardrail. The main advantage is that these tractors can be supplied with the necessary energy via the rail system. This should make an important contribution to the decarbonisation of freight transport on inland waterways.


Title: Ships in marginal seas in off-design situations – SiRiOS
Term: 11/2021 – 04/2024
Project Manager: Martin Börner
Founding: Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy
Project administration: EuroNorm GmbH
Reg.-No.: 49VF210028

One variant envisages the use of autonomously acting “tractors” in a network, which act under coupling of the respective control and using logical algorithms for decision-making. Another envisaged variant looks at the self-retracting ship by means of mooring devices permanently mounted on the ship.
The technical solution approach consists of identifying the system-based weak points of a towed system. The focus here is on determining the hydrodynamic and technical boundary conditions.
The aim is to develop initial indications of the expected forces and hydrodynamic system properties by means of targeted CFD calculations (scenarios that cannot be carried out in the model test). This includes, among other things, the driving behaviour and the towing performance, especially for curves, as well as the forces for driving in restricted fairways with different channel cross-sections and distances to the shore. The simulation results are to be validated and supplemented on the basis of model tests with a model in a true-to-scale canal replica, and solution approaches are to be developed by means of coordinated test series. Based on the results obtained in the R&D project A-Swarm (03SX485A), manoeuvring/drive units will be designed and dimensioned. Another focus is the investigation of a coupling system that fulfils corresponding criteria such as reliability, safety, redundancy, economic efficiency and practical suitability. Based on the results, principle solutions regarding occurring problems such as encounters, overtaking, junctions and the general occurrence of obstacles and imponderables will be discussed and outlined. A possible energy concept is to be developed with a focus on technical feasibility. In addition, an onboard energy concept is to be designed or existing solutions are to be integrated into the overall system in such a way that an au-tonomous, redundant system that is temporarily independent of shore power can be realised.
As a result, overall systems consisting of ship, shoreside infrastructure and towing system are to be outlined, which meet the requirements of an autonomous towing system and are as economical, climate neutral and safe as possible.