AQUABOT C3 - Aquatic Drone Coordination, Communication and Control

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Project Goal/Summary: To develop a data gathering, coordination and communication system for a swarm of aquatic drones. The team will build scale models of deployable drones and develop the outlined C3 system to physically test the ability of the small-scale swarm to sense regional water (ocean model) parameters; capture data, coordinate and plot data. Also critical will be the development of a communication system for both data transfer as well as a coordination system for actual control of individual drone movement. These system components, in particular, must empower drones to act with defined trajectories, allowing individual vs group, movement, course correction and coordination.

Background, Rationale and Project Scope:
The health of the ocean is critical for overall earth and human health function. Of concern is the increasing stress being placed on the world’s oceans, and for that matter other bodies of water including lakes and rivers. Increasing pollution from runoff and population growth; the increased release/dumping of pollutants, petrochemicals and garbage; lack of recyclability of plastics with generation of dispersed microplastics; and the list goes on - all collectively and exponentially are affecting ocean/water health. The relentless increase of ocean waste is at risk for impacting the health not only of the oceans but also those organisms who rely directly or indirectly on the sea. Climate change, as well, is a further stressor leading to an increase in sea level, a decrease in salinity, regional oxygen depletion and alteration of sea life - from the microscopic on up.

Here, autonomous AquaBot drones are being developed to monitor the state of the oceans, obtain regional samples (salinity, pH, Temp) and recover plastic and other contaminating materials from the oceans. To increase the efficiency of these devices it is intended that they will operate in a swarm or fleet mode. To work in this manner individual drones need to be able to communicate with each other and take directions from a central command control. The vessels (drones) should use an Automated Identification System protocol (AIS) to transmit their position and be able to monitor each other’s position. Key control parameters are collision avoidance, search pattern adherence, vessel integrity/health, sensor data communication, error reporting, diagnostics and maintenance reporting. A set of dummy drones can be used to develop and test the control methodologies – these will be three-d printed or modified from toys such as Create Toys Mini RC Submarine Boat RC Toy Remote Control Waterproof Diving Christmas Gift for Kids Boys -

Specifications – radio communications between vessels, data transmit, logging and displaying data, control of movement of one vessels vs another. Central display, networking of data within the swarm, low power consumption, capable of operating at 12V. Measurement of water temp, pH and conductivity.

Requirements: (1) Research into types of robotic intercommunication system available. (2) Identify how these systems can be adopted or improved (3) Identify low-cost sensing/communication systems for collision avoidance (4) Develop control strategy. (4) Demonstrate system operation through prototyping and testing of mini bots/drones, sensors and control system.
Skills Necessary: Mechanical Engineering, Control Engineering, Computer Programming, Machine Learning.

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