Robotic submarines navigate underwater course autonomously

Robotic submarines navigate underwater course autonomously


Teams from nine universities from across Europe
gathered at NATO’s Undersea Research Center to pit their robotic submarines against each
other in a competition that tests the teams ingenuity and intelligence. The subs need
to navigate an underwater course and must do so completely autonomously. This is an entire leap of faith, they are
very reliant on the program that they’ve written that tells that machine that when it gets
a certain input this is what it has to do and they’ve got no way of communicating with
it once it leaves the surface. Most of the AUVs or autonomous underwater
vehicles are driven around on the surface via Wifi. Once underwater many of the machines
use sonar and cameras to steer clear of obstacles. The course set up at the Undersea Research
Center in La Spezia, Italy requires the subs to go through a set of gates, track a pipe
and then follow the edge of a wall. The judges use sonar to track the location
of the subs while they’re underwater. And In one of the qualifying rounds, one sub went
astray and had to be rescued by a diver. The AUVs weren’t big budget projects. The
brains of some of them aren’t much different than what some of you are using to watch this
video. Well our approach to this AUV is to build
a very cheap AUV that is easy to handle. As you can see we have a waterproof case on it
and that’s very different from the designs of the other teams. If we want to do anything
to our hardware all we have to do is open the case and here you see a small netbook
or notebook with a dual core. So we’re able to work on this AUV as much as we want. NATO created the contest to encourage students
to seek careers in science and technology. The organization also sees it as a way to
improve the technology we already have today, some of which is now deployed in the Gulf
of Mexico. Of recent interest the Gulf oil spill, they’ve
been using a huge amount of autonomous technology there because obviously it’s very deep and
we can actually send unmanned robots to do an awful lot of the filming and sensing of
just how bad the problem is without putting human beings into harms way. Students weren’t just judged on their subs
performance on the course, but on their websites, papers, videos and presentations as well.
In the end, the team from Spain’s University of Giorna won the contest. Reporting from Boston, I’m Nick Barber, IDG
News Service.

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