Monday, January 12, 2015

Largest Autonomous Underwater Vehicle Swarm

Researchers at Austria's University of Graz have demonstrated the largest collection of swarming autonomous underwater vehicles with their Collective Cognitive Robots (CoCoRo) project.  A total of 41 autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs) were assembled for recent swarm testing at the University's Artificial Life Lab. Though funded by the European Union's Seventh Framework Programme for Research (FP7) with the intention of developing civilian innovations for environmental monitoring and research, CoCoRo has implications for future military unmanned underwater vehicle swarm activity. 


Under development since 2011, CoCoRo's swarm demonstration consists of three types of robots: Jeff is an agile fish-like robot with various pressure and magnetic sensors for obstacle detection, avoidance, and navigation.  The swarm also featured 20 saucer-shaped Lily robots that randomly search for objects while communicating with each other using blue-LED lights.  The final robot is a semi-submersible catamaran base station which serves as a platform for the vehicles to autonomously dock allowing the swarm to communicate its location (via GPS) and activities with humans as well as to other base stations.  Eventually, using this method, swarms in multiple geographic areas could coordinate search areas with one another. A dock could also provide a future means to recharge the AUVs and transport them from one location to another.
   
Bio-inspired algorithms enable the swarm to work together to locate magnetic targets and aggregate around them.  On a larger scale, this behavior has viability for naval unmanned underwater vehicles that could be used in underwater surveys, search and recovery, or mine counter-measures operations

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