Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Toward Smarter Underwater Drones

02.06.2014

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.


Barzin Moridian

Nina Mahmoudian, standing second from right, and her team of student researchers on the Michigan Technological University waterfront prepare to launch their underwater drone, ROUGHIE, in Portage Lake.

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.

Marcia Goodrich | newswise
Further information:
http://www.mtu.edu

Further reports about: Flight Hands-on batteries decisions drone hazardous underwater underwater drone

More articles from Power and Electrical Engineering:

nachricht In best circles: First integrated circuit from self-assembled polymer
19.02.2018 | Max-Planck-Institut für Polymerforschung

nachricht System draws power from daily temperature swings
16.02.2018 | Massachusetts Institute of Technology

All articles from Power and Electrical Engineering >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: In best circles: First integrated circuit from self-assembled polymer

For the first time, a team of researchers at the Max-Planck Institute (MPI) for Polymer Research in Mainz, Germany, has succeeded in making an integrated circuit (IC) from just a monolayer of a semiconducting polymer via a bottom-up, self-assembly approach.

In the self-assembly process, the semiconducting polymer arranges itself into an ordered monolayer in a transistor. The transistors are binary switches used...

Im Focus: Demonstration of a single molecule piezoelectric effect

Breakthrough provides a new concept of the design of molecular motors, sensors and electricity generators at nanoscale

Researchers from the Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry of the CAS (IOCB Prague), Institute of Physics of the CAS (IP CAS) and Palacký University...

Im Focus: Hybrid optics bring color imaging using ultrathin metalenses into focus

For photographers and scientists, lenses are lifesavers. They reflect and refract light, making possible the imaging systems that drive discovery through the microscope and preserve history through cameras.

But today's glass-based lenses are bulky and resist miniaturization. Next-generation technologies, such as ultrathin cameras or tiny microscopes, require...

Im Focus: Stem cell divisions in the adult brain seen for the first time

Scientists from the University of Zurich have succeeded for the first time in tracking individual stem cells and their neuronal progeny over months within the intact adult brain. This study sheds light on how new neurons are produced throughout life.

The generation of new nerve cells was once thought to taper off at the end of embryonic development. However, recent research has shown that the adult brain...

Im Focus: Interference as a new method for cooling quantum devices

Theoretical physicists propose to use negative interference to control heat flow in quantum devices. Study published in Physical Review Letters

Quantum computer parts are sensitive and need to be cooled to very low temperatures. Their tiny size makes them particularly susceptible to a temperature...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

2nd International Conference on High Temperature Shape Memory Alloys (HTSMAs)

15.02.2018 | Event News

Aachen DC Grid Summit 2018

13.02.2018 | Event News

How Global Climate Policy Can Learn from the Energy Transition

12.02.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Rare find from the deep sea

20.02.2018 | Life Sciences

In living color: Brightly-colored bacteria could be used to 'grow' paints and coatings

20.02.2018 | Life Sciences

Observing and controlling ultrafast processes with attosecond resolution

20.02.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>