The project Submarine Exploring Swarms was part of the studies at Carl von Ossietzky University of Oldenburg. Aim of the project was to develop an autonomous underwater robot. The realized robot is a prototype, which shows the capability of the vehicle. Main focus was on the autonomy of the robot. The project team contains 17 students of the university.
The development of the robot takes about one year and 4,750 € have been invested. The budget for this project was provided by OFFIS. Besides the financial support, OFFIS supported the project team with words and deeds.
The robot comes with several sensors to determine its position in the water. A sensor allows detecting objects and barriers lying ahead. The camera mounted in the bow is used for identifying objects and for recording the mission. After the mission data has been transferred to the robot, it can autonomously carry out its mission. Bearing and course are automatically adopted, if unknown objects or barriers are barricading the robot’s way. Static barriers are added to the digital map and considered in subsequent missions. The robot provided enough space inside the body that it can carry additional components, allowing extending the area of application.
A commercial glass fibre reinforced plastic is used as body of the robot, allowing missions in depths up to ten meters. Bow and stern, as well as mountings of the propulsion engines are made from aluminium. The robot is moved by six engine pods. Two a used for propulsion. Four additional pods are used for dynamic descent and going up. The batteries, which a de-coupled from the rest of the electronics allow a running time of about five hours.
Besides the propulsion electronics of the robot mainly consists of four as far as possible independent system components. The first component realizes system monitoring and communication with the environment. The object identification component controls the camera and identifies the visible objects. In order to log the mission’s progress, images from the camera are recorded continuously. Hydro-acoustics determines the position of the vehicle based on three sonar buoys. An additional sonar determines the distance to objects lying ahead. Navigation is performed by the fourth component. It processes the mission, corrects the course of the vehicle if necessary and manages the digital maps.
Preparing and planning the mission is done using software, specifically developed by the team. A WLAN connection is used for communicating with the robot. An additional cable-based Ethernet connection can be used, if the robot is plunged. Besides transferring mission data, both connections can be used for controlling the robot directly.
The project aroused some public interest. In the run-up of the IdeenExpo 2007, where the vehicle was demonstrated, it was used to promote the fair. The vehicle was presented in the inner city of Oldenburg, and local press was reporting. German television was broadcasting a report about the robot, and local radio station radio flora was also reporting. Both reports are available in the download section.
Even after the project was finished, there was some public interest. After the robot went to the University of Ulm, a local TV station as well as a local newspaper reported about the robot. Besides local press, national press was reporting. There was an article in Die Welt a national German newspaper. Even international interest was gained, while the robot was presented at the DATE’09. All articles can be found on the download section.