Underwater Robot with Intelligent 3D Cameras for High-Precision Tracking

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Okayama University researchers in collaboration with industrial partners have developed an innovative underwater robot incorporating intelligent three dimensional object recognition CCD technology for autonomous search and tracking operations over long durations of time in open water.

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Created by a team at Japan’s Okayama University, the MOS/AUV (Move on Sensing/Autonomous Underwater Vehicle) is designed to find its own way along the bottom of the sea or a lake, performing various tasks as it does so.   The Okayama University MOS/AUV is expected to find applications in areas including decontamination of radiation contaminated the floors of seas, oceans and lakes.  It can also be used in the exploration of ocean floors for materials such as methane hydrate and rare earth materials; maintenance of underwater telecommunications cables; environmental monitoring and surveys of marine life; underwater mines; recovering space debris, and lifesaving.

Mamoru Minami, professor at the Graduate School of Natural Science and Technology, Okayama University says “Underwater navigation with this combination of sound and 3-D visual servo feedback enables our AUV to search, track, and pinpoint targets with a precision of 5 mm.  We expect this accuracy to improve this figure to 0.5 mm, which we have obtained using ground based robots.”  The MOS/AUV can even follow objects that are moving at up to 10 mm/second, as might be the case it they were being carried by currents.

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The device successfully docked with a target consisting of a hole measuring 7cm in diameter designed to simulate a recharging base for the robot for simulating charging task of the battery on the AUV while experimentation.  The robot moves autonomously taking into account changes in the position of the target.

Minami says “we can envisage applications not related to underwater activities,” “for example docking space vehicles and using autonomous robots to build bases on the Moon.  It’s a really exciting invention with many applications.” The MOS/AUV is being developed with Kowa Corporation, a company based in Osaka, Japan, specializing in underwater equipment.