The term hydrobatics stems from aerobatics and refers to the agile maneuvering of underwater robots. Small and agile underwater robots can revolutionise sensing in polar regions, reducing risks and costs while enabling access to previously inaccessible areas. When coupled with new planning and control strategies, such autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs) can perform challenging monitoring tasks with reduced human intervention. These include mapping glacier fronts, adaptively sampling plankton, and visually tracking marine animals. Sriharsha’s PhD project at KTH within the Swedish Maritime Robotics Centre has focused on new models, planning and control algorithms for AUVs in these tasks.
The aim of this field campaign by KTH and NTNU is to validate the use of hydrobatic AUVs for environmental sensing in the Arctic. KTH has developed the SAM AUV (SAM - Small and Affordable Maritime Robot) with a unique sensor and actuator configuration. SAM has been deployed in scenarios including inspections, search and detection, tracking algal blooms, and underwater docking. NTNU has performed extensive fieldwork using AUVs, ROVs, ASVs, UAVs and satellites in Svalbard. SAM can augment this observation pyramid and fill in specific gaps in coverage. With this field grant, Sriharsha will deploy SAM in Ny Ålesund together with NTNU PhD student Karoline Barstein. New control algorithms developed by Sriharsha will be tested in the field to:
1. Sense phytoplankton patches in Kongsfjorden using a fluorometer
2. Track glacial meltwater plumes near Kronebreen with a CTD probe
3. Track underwater targets with cameras and sidescan sonar
Deliverables include a performance benchmark of the AUV in Svalbard, data from payload sensors, publications based on the experiments, and a plan for future campaigns with Norwegian institutions. This field campaign will be a precursor for long term deployments for polar monitoring, offering a baseline for larger scale scientific expeditions using SAM.