Autonomous Underwater Vehicle Navigation and Control Using an Autonomous Surface Craft

PI: Michael Triantafyllou, MIT Sea Grant, James Bellingham, MIT Sea Grant, Justin Manley, MIT Sea Grant

Project Number:2000-RCM-6

Start Date:2000-03-01End Date:2002-02-28

Proposal Summary

Objectives: We propose a two year effort to develop and demonstrate a new technique for communicating with and navigating Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUVs). Using an Autonomous Surface Craft (ASC) it is possible to deploy navigation and communication systems on the ocean surface in the immediate vicinity of an underwater vehicle. This close proximity of a surface expression allows underwater acoustic signals to be transmitted through any means available above the free surface. Combining commercially available and newly developed prototype communications and navigation systems with the novel AUV and ASC technology available at MIT Sea Grant will yield a new synthesis that vastly improves the superior data collection system able to collect in situ data over the entire water column. This effort will provide a valuable new component to the Autonomous Ocean Sampling Network (AOSN) concept.

Methodology: The proposed project will follow a philosophy of incremental development. Each year of the program will have several key phases, each of which will culminate with a significant milestone. These phases are:
1. Supervisory Control of the ASC
2. UAM Integration
3. UAM Communications Tests
4. AUV Control Tests
5. USBL Tracking
6. Two-way Communications
7. Satellite Telemetry

Each phase adds a new level of complexity to the system. By the end of the first year the current capabilities of the fixed AOSN moorings will be duplicated on the mobile ASC. The second year will add navigation capabilities and concluded with an investigation into the utility of satellite data systems for AUV control.

Rationale: The inability to communicate with deployed marine instruments is a fundamental impediment to creation of real-time oceanographic observation systems. Accurate forecasting of the coastal oceanography has significant implications for environmental management and protection as well as coastal fisheries management. In addition, marine scientists need accurate forecasts to tailor their experiments to specific locations, times and processes that best exemplify the phenomena being studied. The short time-scales of coastal processes (of order hours) creates a need for real-time observation. Current solutions to this challenge lie in the use of Autonomous Ocean Sampling Networks that are based on moored navigation and communication systems. Combining commercially available and newly developed prototype communications and navigation systems with the novel AUV and ASC technology available at MIT Sea Grant will yield a new synthesis that vastly improves the capabilities of either system individually. The combination of mobile surface and underwater systems will also provide a superior data collection system able to collect in situ data in real-time over the entire water column. This effort will provide a valuable new component to the Autonomous Ocean Sampling Network (AOSN) concept.

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