Bluefin Robotics moves toward adaptive cooperation among teams of unmanned underwater vehicles

BY John Keller

QUINCY, Mass.—Bluefin Robotics Corp. in Quincy, Mass., is taking a step closer to developing a hybrid network of unmanned underwater vehicles (UUVs) for autonomous adaptive collaboration for ocean sensing without human UUV operators. Bluefin experts in July demonstrated the company’s MOOS-IvP autonomy system software on a Bluefin-9 UUV in Boston Harbor. The MOOS-IvP is a set of third-party, open-source C++ software modules that provide autonomy for robotic vehicles. Researchers demonstrated the machine autonomy software.

Researchers used the Bluefin-9 unmanned underwater vehicle, at left, to demonstrate software that enables unmanned watercraft to work together autonomously.

The Bluefin-9 transmit wavelet- compressed sidescan sonar images via an acoustic modem and display them on a command-and-control console aboard an accompanying surface vessel. The small UUV can be operated by two people.

Bluefin experts demonstrated the system with researchers from the Laboratory for Autonomous Marine Sensing Systems (LAMSS) at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge, Mass. The project took a few days of testing on a virtual machine, one day to integrate the software into the UUV, and two days in Boston Harbor.

Bluefin researchers previously integrated the MOOS-IvP autonomy system onto two larger Bluefin-21 UUVs for underwater acoustic research. In this previous demonstration, experts used a separate computer for the payload and the MOOS-IvP software.

Later during the Bluefin-9 demonstration, researchers integrated the MOOS-IvP software into the existing UUV computer. Engineers interfaced the MOOS-IvP software with the UUV’s Huxley software operating system to share core vehicle data, with the MOOS-IvP operating as a backseat driver, Bluefin officials say.

The MOOS-IvP software enables UUV users to develop new behaviors and smart payloads by instructing the vehicle to change its behavior based on payload data it collects in real time, officials say. Sponsoring this research project was the U.S. Office of Naval Research (ONR) in Arlington, Va., with supplemental support from Bluefin Robotics.

FOR MORE INFORMATION visit Bluefin Robotics at www.bluefinrobotics.com.

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February 2014
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