25 September

Last week the Workshop on Autonomy for Maritime Robotics took place
at Dalhousie University, sponsored by Defense Research and
Development Canada. There were various kinds of people there talking about robotics at sea, including people who worked on the detection of mines at sea, businesses that build sonar sensors, people who worry about based scientific questions, and government sponsors. My own talk dealt with several mrine robotics projects at McGill including the Aqua Project.

The application that got the most play was the detection of sunken mines at sea. There were presentations from government-sponsored labs in the USA and Canada on imaging these mines using sonar and recognizing them. We didn't hear much about the vehicles being used for these applications, but I inferred that they are pretty "standard" undersea robots such as the IVUR2.

There were two presentations from the lab of Ralf Bachmayer and his colleagues at MUN on scientific applications related to profiling the bottoms of ice bergs or ice flows; these were probably the most challenging and scientifically provocative things that came up. As I have mentioned in this blog before, they use sea gliders to collect data on time scales from hours to weeks. He talked about one experiment when their sea glider got caught on the bottom of an ice berg and stayed there much longer than expected, before fortuitously popping out again.

As one might expect, the huge logistic challenges of operating robots at sea, and particularly autonomous robots, influences the kinds of things that can be done. Moreover, the robots them selves are expensive and resource-constrained. On the other hand, there are lots of great scientific and technical challenges specific to this domain, if you have the funding, the nerve and are willing to build the infrastructure. As Ralf put it, "it's not a question of if you will lose a robot, but when." Luckily, neither his group nor mine has lost one yet (although we have come pretty close with a broken seal on a vehicle).

By Gregory Dudek at | Leave a comment |    
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