Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Toward smarter underwater drones

Date:
May 29, 2014
Source:
Michigan Technological University
Summary:
With better brains, underwater drones would spend less time searching and more time finding their target, including airliners lost at the bottom of the ocean. If one scientist has her way, the next generation of autonomous underwater vehicles will have a much better chance of getting it right.

A test run for ROUGHIE.
Credit: Image courtesy of Michigan Technological University

The news was not good. An underwater drone armed with the best technology on the planet had descended repeatedly to the bottom of the Indian Ocean, trying to find Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. Time after time, it turned up nothing.

If Nina Mahmoudian has her way, the next generation of autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs) will have a much better chance of getting it right.

AUVs like the one that hunted for Flight 370 are laden with advanced technology, but they have their shortcomings. During a search, they travel in a predetermined pattern, retrieving reams of information and returning it to the surface, where it can be analyzed, says Mahmoudian, a researcher at Michigan Technological University. Thus, they can spend a lot of time gathering data on things that are not, for example, a missing airplane.

"You need an autonomous vehicle that can go deep and explore an area with a sense of what it is looking for," she said. "We want to make a smarter vehicle, one that can search on its own and make decisions on its own."

Mahmoudian is building four of those smarter AUVs, each a little bigger than a loaf of French bread. When they are complete, she will give them something new: better, more powerful brains. That involves revamping their software so they "know" what they are looking for. "AUVs like these could be so much more useful for finding small, hazardous objects like mines, or for detecting problems with cables and pipelines," she said.

Mahmoudian's AUVs, named ROUGHIEs (for Research Oriented Underwater Gliders for Hands-on Investigative Engineering) will be underwater gliders. Powered only by batteries, they will "fly" slowly through the water simply by adjusting their buoyancy and weight. This will make them safer and more reliable in shallow waters, where a propeller could become tangled in vegetation or injure a person.

That's important, because the ROUGHIEs will not be exploring the middle of the ocean; they are designed for use near the water's edge, which offers a special challenge.

"They come up on the coast, where there's lots of noise, and we want ours to be able to talk with each other, and perhaps to a mother ship, in any environment," she said. "That means they'll have to operate in an area with lots of boats, swimmers and the like."

Her ROUGHIEs offer additional advantages. They will be modular, allowing users to swap out different components depending on what tasks the drones undertake. And they will cost a fraction of the price of a commercial model to build. That makes them ideal for the trial-and-error process inherent in scientific research.

Underwater gliders and other types of AUVs already play an important role in addressing some of today's most pressing environmental, safety and biological challenges. Their uses range from detecting dangerous contaminants, like oil spills, to retrieving evidence of climate change. By arming them with smarter software, they would become even better at doing their jobs, including searching an ocean's depths.

"We need solutions for these cases," Mahmoudian said. "The disappearance of the Malaysian aircraft is a clear example of why we must do this."

The Office of Naval Research is supporting Mahmoudian's effort with a $125,000 grant to build the four low-cost underwater gliders. Members of her team are Byrel Mitchell and Saeedeh Fard, both PhD students in mechanical engineering-engineering mechanics; mechanical engineering undergraduates Eric Wilkening and Brian Page; and Anthony Pinar, PhD student in electrical engineering. Mahmoudian is an assistant professor in Michigan Tech's Department of Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Michigan Technological University. The original article was written by Marcia Goodrich. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Michigan Technological University. "Toward smarter underwater drones." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 29 May 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/05/140529142028.htm>.
Michigan Technological University. (2014, May 29). Toward smarter underwater drones. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 1, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/05/140529142028.htm
Michigan Technological University. "Toward smarter underwater drones." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/05/140529142028.htm (accessed September 1, 2014).

Share This




More Matter & Energy News

Monday, September 1, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Australian Airlines Relax Phone Ban Too

Australian Airlines Relax Phone Ban Too

Reuters - Business Video Online (Aug. 26, 2014) Qantas and Virgin say passengers can use their smartphones and tablets throughout flights after a regulator relaxed a ban on electronic devices during take-off and landing. As Hayley Platt reports the move comes as the two domestic rivals are expected to post annual net losses later this week. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Hurricane Marie Brings Big Waves to California Coast

Hurricane Marie Brings Big Waves to California Coast

Reuters - US Online Video (Aug. 26, 2014) Huge waves generated by Hurricane Marie hit the Southern California coast. Rough Cut (no reporter narration). Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Chinese Researchers Might Be Creating Supersonic Submarine

Chinese Researchers Might Be Creating Supersonic Submarine

Newsy (Aug. 26, 2014) Chinese researchers have expanded on Cold War-era tech and are closer to building a submarine that could reach the speed of sound. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Breakingviews: India Coal Strained by Supreme Court Ruling

Breakingviews: India Coal Strained by Supreme Court Ruling

Reuters - Business Video Online (Aug. 26, 2014) An acute coal shortage is likely to be aggravated as India's supreme court declared government coal allocations illegal, says Breakingviews' Peter Thal Larsen. Video provided by Reuters
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