There are currently no low cost Autonomous Surface Craft (ASC) commercially available for use in estuarine, reservoir, or lake environments. While academic and military based vehicles exist the alternatives to most researchers are standard manned surveys, satellite observations, or the very expensive autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs). Other platforms exist which have some similarities to ASCs, such as surface drones, which have been used as tenders for AUVs, and the unmanned, tethered platforms. Some groups have worked on remotely controlled surface craft.
If an inexpensive, easy to use ASC were available for field data acquisition, then detailed, accurate surveys could take place at relatively low cost and with high repeatability. Use of autonomous control would reduce the need for personnel on manned field surveys, and/or free a field crew to focus their attention on other, more complex tasks while the mapping surveys are performed by the ASC. A vehicle with high stability, low draft, and easy maneuverability would be ideal for estuarine studies, and be well matched to the relatively protected and accessible environment.
AI Pod is currently designing and constructing an inexpensive prototype Autonomous Surface Craft. Included in this is the application and continued development of AI Pod's existing proprietary AI techniques and methods to control the craft. Proof of success will be demonstrating the ability of the test vehicle to drive a basic trackline pattern in a realistic field setting.
AI Pod intends to:
- Prototype a low cost, dependable platform for use as an autonomous surface craft in relatively protected, aquatic environments;
- Continue A/I Pod's existing development of a general A/I technique for optimal control of the platform using a combination of dynamic programming and expert systems;
- Prototype a user interface to allow the user to easily control and observe the progress of the autonomous data collection in real time, using wireless technology
See http://www.nacse.org/~holtt/scritch/asv/boatpic4.jpg for a 3d render of the vehicle design.
The prototype will be equipped with GPS, a depth sounder, and an onboard controlling navigational computer. It will be powered by twin electric, reversible trolling motors, which the onboard computer system independently controls using pulse width modulation (PWM) for speed and heading control.
An artificial intelligence technique known as "dynamic programming" will be applied to obtain ideal motion control of the platform, which adapts to changing environments; and a simple rules-based expert system will be embedded in the control code for safety overrides.
A user interface will be prototyped to allow the user easy programming of the vehicle's missions, as well as to observe the progress of the mapping assignments in real time using long range wireless communication hardware.
The end result will be an autonomous, shallow draft, highly maneuverable surface craft capable of continuous navigation of 3 knots for several hours duration. It will be capable of carrying a typical scientific instrumentation package. A prototype navigational and mapping interface will allow monitoring the ASC's progress via wireless ethernet technology.
Description: Autonomous Surface Craft
This project has the following developers:
- tim.holt is a Lead Developer.