Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Underwater robot swims free thanks to York U-designed wireless controller

01.10.2010
A waterproof controller designed and built by York University researchers is allowing an underwater robot to go “wireless” in a unique way.

AQUA, an amphibious, otter-like robot, is small and nimble, with flippers rather than propellers, designed for intricate data collection from shipwrecks and reefs.

The robot, a joint project of York, McGill and Dalhousie universities, can now be controlled wirelessly using a waterproof tablet built at York. While underwater, divers can program the tablet to display tags onscreen, similar to barcodes read by smartphones. The robot’s on-board camera then scans these two-dimensional tags to receive and carry out commands. For a video of AQUA in action, click here.

Cutting the cord on underwater robots has been a longstanding challenge for scientists; water interferes with radio signals, hindering traditional wireless communication via modem. Tethered communication is cumbersome and can create safety issues for divers.

“Having a robot tethered to a vehicle above water creates a scenario where communication between the diver, robot, and surface operator becomes quite complicated,” says Michael Jenkin, professor in York’s Faculty of Science & Engineering and co-author of the forthcoming paper, Swimming with Robots: Human Robot Communication at Depth.

“Investigating a shipwreck, for example, is a very delicate operation and the diver and robot need to be able to react quickly to changes in the environment. An error or a lag in communication could be dangerous,” Jenkin says.

Realizing there was no device on the market that fit the bill, Jenkin and his team at York’s Centre for Vision Research, including the paper’s lead author, MSc student Bart Verzijlenberg, set to work constructing a prototype. The resulting device, fittingly dubbed AQUATablet, is watertight to a depth of 60 feet. Aluminum housing with a clear acrylic cover protects the tablet computer, which can be controlled by a diver using toggle-switches and on-screen prompts.

“A diver at 60 feet can actually teleoperate AQUA 30-40 feet deeper. Needless to say this is much easier on the diver, physically, and much safer,” Jenkin says.

The tablet also allows divers to command the robot much as if they were using a video game joystick; turn the tablet right and AQUA turns right, too. In this mode, the robot is connected to the tablet by a slim length of optical cable, circumventing many of the issues of a robot-to-surface tether. The optical cable also allows AQUA to provide video feedback from its camera to the operator. In a totally wireless mode, the robot acknowledges prompts by flashing its on-board light. Its cameras can be used to build 3-D models of the environment which can then be used to guide the robot to particular tasks.

“This is a huge improvement on [a robot] having to travel to the surface to communicate with its operators,” Jenkin says.

In past, divers have used laminated flashcards to visually communicate with robots while underwater. However, these limit the diver to a pre-set sequence of commands.

“It’s impossible to anticipate everything you’re going to want the robot to do once you get underwater. We wanted to develop a system where we could create commands on the fly, in response to the environment,” he says.

Jenkin and Verzijlenberg’s paper will be presented at the IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems (IROS) in Taiwan.

Jenkin and Verzijlenberg are two of the researchers based in York’s new state-of-the-art Sherman Health Science Research Centre, which officially opened on Sept. 14, 2010. Jenkin leads the Canadian Centre for Field Robotics, which is based on the building’s main level. The centre is supported by a grant from the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI). The AQUA project is funded in part by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC). York’s Centre for Vision Research is part of the Faculty of Health.

York University is the leading interdisciplinary research and teaching university in Canada. York offers a modern, academic experience at the undergraduate and graduate level in Toronto, Canada’s most international city. The third largest university in the country, York is host to a dynamic academic community of 50,000 students and 7,000 faculty and staff, as well as 200,000 alumni worldwide. York’s 10 Faculties and 28 research centres conduct ambitious, groundbreaking research that is interdisciplinary, cutting across traditional academic boundaries. This distinctive and collaborative approach is preparing students for the future and bringing fresh insights and solutions to real-world challenges. York University is an autonomous, not-for-profit corporation.

Media Contact:
Melissa Hughes, Media Relations, York University, 416 736 2100 x22097, mehughes@yorku.ca

Melissa Hughes | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.yorku.ca
http://news.yorku.ca/2010/09/30/underwater-robot-swims-free-thanks-to-york-u-designed-wireless-controller/

More articles from Power and Electrical Engineering:

nachricht Solar-to-fuel system recycles CO2 to make ethanol and ethylene
19.09.2017 | DOE/Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

nachricht A simple additive to improve film quality
19.09.2017 | King Abdullah University of Science & Technology (KAUST)

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: Ultrafast snapshots of relaxing electrons in solids

Using ultrafast flashes of laser and x-ray radiation, scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics (Garching, Germany) took snapshots of the briefest electron motion inside a solid material to date. The electron motion lasted only 750 billionths of the billionth of a second before it fainted, setting a new record of human capability to capture ultrafast processes inside solids!

When x-rays shine onto solid materials or large molecules, an electron is pushed away from its original place near the nucleus of the atom, leaving a hole...

Im Focus: Quantum Sensors Decipher Magnetic Ordering in a New Semiconducting Material

For the first time, physicists have successfully imaged spiral magnetic ordering in a multiferroic material. These materials are considered highly promising candidates for future data storage media. The researchers were able to prove their findings using unique quantum sensors that were developed at Basel University and that can analyze electromagnetic fields on the nanometer scale. The results – obtained by scientists from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics, the Swiss Nanoscience Institute, the University of Montpellier and several laboratories from University Paris-Saclay – were recently published in the journal Nature.

Multiferroics are materials that simultaneously react to electric and magnetic fields. These two properties are rarely found together, and their combined...

Im Focus: Fast, convenient & standardized: New lab innovation for automated tissue engineering & drug

MBM ScienceBridge GmbH successfully negotiated a license agreement between University Medical Center Göttingen (UMG) and the biotech company Tissue Systems Holding GmbH about commercial use of a multi-well tissue plate for automated and reliable tissue engineering & drug testing.

MBM ScienceBridge GmbH successfully negotiated a license agreement between University Medical Center Göttingen (UMG) and the biotech company Tissue Systems...

Im Focus: Silencing bacteria

HZI researchers pave the way for new agents that render hospital pathogens mute

Pathogenic bacteria are becoming resistant to common antibiotics to an ever increasing degree. One of the most difficult germs is Pseudomonas aeruginosa, a...

Im Focus: Artificial Enzymes for Hydrogen Conversion

Scientists from the MPI for Chemical Energy Conversion report in the first issue of the new journal JOULE.

Cell Press has just released the first issue of Joule, a new journal dedicated to sustainable energy research. In this issue James Birrell, Olaf Rüdiger,...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

“Lasers in Composites Symposium” in Aachen – from Science to Application

19.09.2017 | Event News

I-ESA 2018 – Call for Papers

12.09.2017 | Event News

EMBO at Basel Life, a new conference on current and emerging life science research

06.09.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

“Lasers in Composites Symposium” in Aachen – from Science to Application

19.09.2017 | Event News

New quantum phenomena in graphene superlattices

19.09.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

A simple additive to improve film quality

19.09.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>