Sustainable exploration and utilization of the oceans require underwater robotics: The oceans play a key role in addressing the global challenges of global warming, increasing population and the corresponding need for energy, food, and minerals. To sustainably harvest the marine resources while protecting biodiversity, there is an urgent demand for efficient, versatile and autonomous underwater robots.
Existing marine robotics technology only provides limited access to the oceans: Today, subsea operations are performed using remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) and autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs), and we generally have to choose between a robot that can interact with the environment (work class ROV), that is capable of long range operations (survey AUVs), or that can gain access to narrow spaces (observation ROVs). Articulated intervention-AUVs (AIAUVs) are novel bioinspired marine robots with a snake-like, articulated body. These robots possess advantageous hydrodynamic properties at the same time as they can hover and perform light intervention tasks. Moreover, their slender and flexible bodies provide excellent access to narrow spaces. We consider the AIAUV concept to be the best foundation for the development of a truly autonomous and versatile underwater robot that can perform both observation and intervention operations in the same mission, e.g., mapping the seabed and collecting sediments, inspecting and repairing the net of an aquaculture fish cage, or detecting and gathering plastic and other debris polluting the oceans. Moreover, articulated robots possess advantages for visual and flow-based situational awareness (understanding the surrounding environment). The AROS project will develop methods to achieve higher levels of autonomy and endurance to fully realize the potential of AIAUVs for obtaining persistent presence in the oceans for ocean exploration and sustainability.
The AROS researchers have previously developed the bioinspired marine robot AIAUV (Articulated Intervention-AUV) by combining the slender, multi-articulated body of snakes with propulsion provided by thrusters. This new marine robot is already well on its way towards disrupting subsea operations in the oil and gas industry. However, higher levels of autonomy and endurance are needed to fully realize the potential of AIAUVs for providing greener, safer and more cost-efficient operations and obtaining persistent presence in the oceans for ocean exploration and sustainability. AROS will close this knowledge gap. Specifically, we will combine the disciplines of engineering cybernetics, computer science and hydrodynamics, to achieve significant advances in the current state of the art of marine robotics and autonomy, with the goal of realizing true autonomy in underwater sensing, situational awareness, and motion planning, and to achieve unprecedented energy autonomy. The methods for underwater situational awareness will enable the AIAUV to understand, interpret and predict its surroundings. The energy efficient motion planning and the energy harvesting methods will enable extreme endurance and enlarge the areas covered beyond the capabilities of current marine robots.
The project will educate five PhD candidates and more than 10 MSc students through six work packages addressing:
WP1: Egomotion estimation and situational awareness for AIAUVs
WP2: Next-best-view and 3D reconstruction for AIAUVs
WP3: Flow sensing: Bio-inspired solutions for AIAUVs
WP4: Motion planning: Redundancy resolution methods for AIAUVs
WP5: Energy harvesting by AIAUVs.
WP6: Simulation studies and experiments
The results will be published in peer-reviewed papers at major international conferences and in top-ranked international journals.