Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Kayaks Adapted To Test Marine Robotics

Date:
August 8, 2006
Source:
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Summary:
MIT researchers are working toward the day when robots could be put into action like a team of Navy SEALs - doing such dangerous work as searching for survivors after devastating hurricanes or sweeping harbors for mines.These engineers are taking small steps toward the holy grail of robotics - cooperative autonomy - making machines work together seamlessly to complete tasks with a minimum of human direction. The tool they're using is the simple kayak.

MIT research engineer Joseph Curcio, left, helps launch a SCOUT for experiments conducted off the island of Pianosa, Italy, in July 2005.
Credit: Photo : Matt Grund, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

MIT researchers are working toward the day when a team of robots could be put into action like a team of Navy SEALs -- doing such dangerous work as searching for survivors after devastating hurricanes or sweeping harbors for mines.

Working in labs that resemble machine shops, these engineers are taking small steps toward the holy grail of robotics -- cooperative autonomy -- making machines work together seamlessly to complete tasks with a minimum of human direction.

The tool they're using is the simple kayak.

The researchers are taking off-the-shelf, $500 plastic kayaks and fitting them with onboard computers, radio control, propulsion, steering, communications and more to create Surface Crafts for Oceanographic and Undersea Testing (SCOUTs).

Much of the technology being tested is ultimately intended for use in underwater robots, or autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs), but testing software on AUVs can easily become a multimullion-dollar experiment.

"I want to have master's students and Ph.D. students that can come in, test algorithms and develop them on a shoestring budget," said Associate Professor John J. Leonard of mechanical engineering. Leonard, together with MIT research engineer Joseph Curcio of mechanical engineering and an intern, Andrew Patrikalakis, unveiled SCOUT last fall in a paper for the IEEE Oceans Conference.

SCOUT is an inexpensive platform that eliminates the necessity of tackling one of the more difficult problems posed by AUVs -- communicating under water.

"One of the biggest challenges underwater is that we can't transmit electromagnetic radiation a long distance," Leonard said.

Operating on the surface means that SCOUTs can take advantage of such technology as wireless Internet and global positioning systems (GPS), which don't work underwater. Researchers are thus free to focus on fine-tuning other necessary robot functions, such as navigation -- all with the goal of creating a team that works so seamlessly that a lot of communication isn't necessary.

"In order to be effective with robots in the water, you'd best not have a plan that relies on a lot of communication," Curcio said. "To be effective with a fleet of vehicles and have them do something intelligent, what you really need to do is have the software be so robust that communication between the vehicles can be kept to a minimum."

Curcio, Leonard and Patrikalakis have built 10 SCOUTs so far, four of which are owned by the Naval Underwater Warfare Center in the care of Michael Benjamin, a visiting scientist in MIT's Department of Mechanical Engineering. The SCOUTs are being used in a variety of collaborative efforts at MIT. As Leonard and Curcio explained, SCOUT was designed to be a platform upon which others can build.

"The analogy was born that we should build it like the pickup truck. All we have to do is make it so that it drives with a known set of controls, or interfaces, and has a payload capability," Curcio said. "And the users, once they learn how to operate it -- like a driver gets in and out of a car -- should be able to easily get on board with another one even though the payload may change."

Software developed on SCOUT may someday help AUVs search the sea bottom for plane wreckage or allow kayaks to find shipwreck survivors.

"We keep thinking of new applications," Leonard said.

This research was funded by the Office of Naval Research and the MIT Sea Grant College Program. Acoustic communications hardware for the project was provided by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Massachusetts Institute of Technology. "Kayaks Adapted To Test Marine Robotics." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 8 August 2006. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/08/060807154657.htm>.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology. (2006, August 8). Kayaks Adapted To Test Marine Robotics. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 31, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/08/060807154657.htm
Massachusetts Institute of Technology. "Kayaks Adapted To Test Marine Robotics." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/08/060807154657.htm (accessed July 31, 2014).

Share This




More Matter & Energy News

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Britain Testing Driverless Cars on Roadways

Britain Testing Driverless Cars on Roadways

AP (July 30, 2014) British officials said on Wednesday that driverless cars will be tested on roads in as many as three cities in a trial program set to begin in January. Officials said the tests will last up to three years. (July 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Amid Drought, UCLA Sees Only Water

Amid Drought, UCLA Sees Only Water

AP (July 30, 2014) A ruptured 93-year-old water main left the UCLA campus awash in 8 million gallons of water in the middle of California's worst drought in decades. (July 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Smartphone Powered Paper Plane Debuts at Airshow

Smartphone Powered Paper Plane Debuts at Airshow

AP (July 30, 2014) Smartphone powered paper airplane that was popular on crowdfunding website KickStarter makes its debut at Wisconsin airshow (July 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
U.K. To Allow Driverless Cars On Public Roads

U.K. To Allow Driverless Cars On Public Roads

Newsy (July 30, 2014) Driverless cars could soon become a staple on U.K. city streets, as they're set to be introduced to a few cities in 2015. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

    Environment News

    Technology News



      Save/Print:
      Share:

      Free Subscriptions


      Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

      Get Social & Mobile


      Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

      Have Feedback?


      Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
      Mobile: iPhone Android Web
      Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
      Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
      Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins