Objectives

The project concerns the development and demonstration at sea of the Networked Ocean System, a networked vehicle system for persistent communications and data collection in remote oceanic areas.

The system is composed of a long endurance autonomous surface vehicle (ASV), long endurance autonomous underwater vehicles (AUV), communication gateways, long range unmanned air vehicles (UAV), helikites, and control stations.

  • The ASV is both a communications hotspot and a docking base (for AUVs), operating 24/7 in remote ocean areas.
  • The ASV is wave powered and has solar panels for covering wide areas of the Atlantic.
  • The ASV and the AUVs form a persistent, being available for long periods of time, and scalable data collection (environmental, maritime traffic, and wildlife) and communications network operating autonomously in remote oceanic areas.
  • The ASV supports smart routing protocols for direct communications, via persistent UAV relays, or delayed data transfer, using UAVs or passing ships as data mules, to control stations, thus providing timely, secure and reliable communication services to control stations alternative to satellite based communications. This will increase overall efficiency and effectiveness.
  • The communication gateways will be support opportunistic routing of data for ships used as data mules.
  • The unmanned vehicles have on-board deliverable planning capabilities for unattended operations in remote locations to minimize intervention of human operators, which may not be available at all times.
  • The UAVs use advanced radio technology for long range communications.
  • The helikite[1], a hybrid between a balloon and a kite, will be used for mounting communications equipment for long range communications. These will be connected to the control stations.
  • The land, or ship-based, control stations provide advanced planning and execution control capabilities, as well as dissemination of data to service providers.
  • The system supports inter-operability protocols to allow expansion to vehicles from third parties.

The overall Networked Ocean System is scalable. The system addresses all the topics of the call for this type of projects by providing unique and cost effective capabilities for covering wide areas in the Atlantic, being available for long periods of time, providing timely, secure and reliable communications, collecting data from smart platforms or land-based stations, and disseminating data to land-based stations or smart platforms.

[1] http://www.allsopp.co.uk/

 

Systems

The novel capabilities for persistent communications and data collection in remote oceanic areas, which will be developed and demonstrated in this project, leverages the latest in robotic hardware and software and builds on experience in the design, construction, and operation of unmanned air, surface and underwater vehicles for innovative applications in Portugal and Norway. Vehicles and other systems are contributed by FEUP, Marinha Portuguesa, and AMOS-NTNU and FFI.

The following picture represents all the components of the Networked Ocean in action.

  • LAUV - Light Autonomous Underwater vehicleLong endurance autonomous underwater vehicles. These AUVs of the LAUV class, contributed by FEUP, will be capable of launch and recovery from helicopter, will have a communications gateway on-board as well as a deliberative planner running on a secondary CPU. The sensor payload will include sensors for measuring environmental parameters, as well as side-scan sonars, multi-beam sonars, and video cameras.
  • Autonomous underwater vehicles of the LAUV Seacon class. These AUV, designed and built by FEUP, will be contributed by Marinha Portuguesa. These vehicles will be upgraded with communications equipment and sensors for this project.

     

    • Wave GliderWave glider - long endurance autonomous surface vehicle (ASV) depicted in the figure. One wave powered Wave Glider ASV with a sensor payload including a weather station, fluorimeter, conductivity, temperature, and depth sensors, as well as an acoustic Doppler Current Profiler, will be rented for this purpose. The Wave Glider will be equipped with additional communications equipment, a communications gateway, a secondary computer for autonomy and for surveillance and monitoring. Advanced on-board planning capabilities will be deployed on the secondary computer, which will also support advanced communication protocols. The ASV has solar panels and is capable of all-weather 24/7 operations.  The ASV will also be equipped with a base station for deploying AUVs. The ASV will be rented from Liquid Robotics.

     

     

     

    UAV Penguin

    • Long range unmanned air vehicles (UAV). These UAVS, of the Penguin class (Figure 2) will be contributed and equipped with long range communication systems by AMOS-NTNU.

     

     

     

     

     

    NEPTUS

    • Control stations. The land or ship based control station will allow high level situational awareness and control of the robotic platforms by combining advanced data fusion, automated planning and execution control algorithms for optimal communications and data collection. These control stations, running the Neptus command and control framework  developed by FEUP and described below, will be contributed by all partners.

     

    Networked Ocean system in action
    Networked Ocean system in action

    The software development for the project will be done with the FEUP-LSTS Neptus-IMC-Dune software tool chain. This is a software framework for mixed-initiative control (humans in the planning and control loops) of unmanned ocean and air vehicles operating in communications challenged environments with support for Disruptive Tolerant Networking (DTN) protocols. The unique features of the tool chain build on experience with the coordinated operation of heterogeneous vehicles. Neptus is a distributed command, control, communications and intelligence framework for operations with networked vehicles, systems, and human operators. Neptus supports all the phases of a mission life cycle: world representation; planning; simulation; and, execution and post-mission analysis . IMC is a communications protocol that defines a common control message set understood by all types of LSTS nodes (vehicles, consoles or sensors) in networked environments. This provides for standard coupling of heterogeneous components in terms of data interchange. DUNE is the system for vehicle on-board software. It is used to write generic embedded software at the heart of the vehicle, e.g. code for control, navigation, or to access sensors and actuators. It provides an operating-system and architecture independent C++ programming environment for writing efficient real-time reactive tasks in modular fashion. The tool chain has support for DTN protocols . LSTS researchers, cooperation with Kanna Rajan, have integrated the deliberative onboard planning system TREX  with Dune.

    The Networked Ocean vehicles will run the IMC-Dune-TREX software. The control stations will run the Neptus command and control software with a TREX plug-in. The Networked Ocean System will use the IMC communications protocol. All nodes in the system talk IMC. This allows for inter-operability. NOS has support for inter-operability with other vehicle systems compliant with JAUS protocol. The underwater communications component is supported by the Janus protocol. All systems have support for disruptive tolerant networking (DTN). The NOS vehicles will have TREX-based deliberative planning capabilities for unattended operations in remote areas and smart cooperation.