The project starts on top of a previously funded project, called "Autonomous Underwater Fleets" and also funded by the Norwegian Research Council, that focused on improving the capabilities of autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs) in cooperating with each other. The goal of the "Autonomous Underwater Fleets" project was to enable collaborating vehicles to perform complex operations, in a distributed and autonomous fashion.
This project faces one of the main challenges of the defense sector, i.e., to minimize the risks of human injuries while performing naval mine counter measurements (NMCM) tasks. Executing these operations autonomously can indeed significantly reduce these risks, and increase efficiency too. This project will thus push towards making NMCM autonomous via exploiting the benefits that fleets of heterogeneous vessels may give in performing detection, mapping, capture, and/or detonation of mines.
The project will thus consider cooperation in heterogeneous networks, and develop new methods enabling different types of AUVs and autonomous surface vessels (ASVs) to work together. This will include taking into account the unique capabilities of each vehicle, and address the complexifying factors of task allocation and partitioning, which involves determining which vessel does what, and which vessel goes where in a distributed, autonomous manner. By developing such new cooperation schemes and by exploiting the unique capabilities that heterogeneous networks may give, the project is thus expected to make NMCM operations safer, more efficient, and more effective.
To test, validate and demonstrate the potential of the devised algorithms, the project will use the various vessels and demoing capabilities available at NTNU and FFI in Horten. This integrated approach, which combines the development of theories and algorithms with practical demonstrations, will enable to develop and refine methods and algorithms to meet the needs of the defense sector.
The ongoing 'Autonomous Underwater Fleets' project, funded by the Norwegian Research Council, has been dealing with the generic problem of improving the capabilities of homogeneous autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs) in cooperating. More specifically, it has been focusing on making such cooperation schemes take into account dynamically how much the AUVs will be able to communicate while performing their mission.
This project will be here extended in two ways: a) the research results will be generalized to heterogeneous networks, i.e., consider heterogeneous networks composed by different types of AUVs and of autonomous surface vessels (ASVs) working together, plus b) focus on results that specifically address the needs of the defence sector. More precisely, the research will focus on the particular problem of executing naval mine counter measurement (NMCM) operations autonomously. Diminishing the risks of human injuries while performing NMCM tasks is a main challenge of the defence sector. This means that the research will revolve around two challenges: making NMCM autonomous (and thus autonomous detection, mapping, capture and/or detonation of mines), plus exploiting the benefits that may come from the heterogeneity in the capabilities of the vehicles in performing such detection, mapping, capture and/or detonation of mines. Importantly, such operations are envisioned to be performed by fleets of collaborating vehicles. This adds thus the complexifying factor of having to tasks allocation and partitioning problems (respectively, who does what and who goes where) in a distributed, autonomous fashion.
Closely integrated with the development of theories and algorithms we will also test, validate and demonstrate the potential of the devised cooperation algorithms in the Trondheim fjord using the various vessels and demoing capabilities available at NTNU, as well as at FFI in Horten.