BOTCOM - Satellite Communication System for Autonomous Aquatic Drones for Ocean Health

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The purpose of this project to develop a satellite-based communication and control system for a swarm or fleet of autonomous water/ocean drones known as “Aquabots.” The chosen method for communication with a master vessel will be via satellite, this will be required to be reliable and cost effective, in particular with regard to data transfer.

Specifications – two-way satellite communications with lead vessel, command data transmission, acquired data transmission, error and diagnostic transmission, distress transmission. System to have low power consumption 1ah @ 12v. System to have recording and display capabilities.

Requirements: (1) Research into types of robotic inter-communication systems available. (2) Identify how these systems can be adopted or improved (3) Identify low-cost sensing/communication systems for collision avoidance (4) Demonstrate system operation through prototyping and testing of an existing Aquabot prototype

Background, Rationale and Project Scope:
The health of the ocean is critical for overall earth and human health. 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 are collectively and exponentially 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.

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.

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