Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Nokken-3 Subsea Exploration Robot

Nokken-3 Subsea Exploration Robot
August 28, 2012 2:30 PM
by John Baichtal

Nokken-3 Subsea Exploration Robot

Eirik Taylor's Nokken-3 ROV is the latest iteration of his long-running submersible project.

The ROV housing itself was constructed using a sheet of plexiglas, which was welded first using acetone to hold the pieces in place, then glued later with epoxy. The potting substance used this time is laminating epoxy, commonly used to repair fiberglass constructs in marine applications. It's very expensive, but resilient and easy to use thanks to it's low viscosity. I made the mistake of not minimizing the potting volume before I starting pouring the epoxy. I had purchased 1,8 liters of resin thinking it would be more than enough, but I quickly saw that was not the case. With the insane cost of the stuff I was not willing to buy another batch, so I quickly chopped up some blocks of wood which I threw into the ROV shell. I'm not sure if the resin is simply exothermic while hardening, or if it reacts with wood, but either way this resulted in a foamy mass forming around the wood blocks. I don't think this will be a problem, but it doesn't look good. Had I known this before hand I would have used sand as fill mass, since it is chemically inert and inherently waterproof. "Standard Buccaneer" connectors from Bulgin were used for all connections on the ROV. This includes the motors which are permanently fastened. These connectors are waterproof down to 100 meters for 12 hours if assembled correctly. The LEDs were mounted inside of the ROV to save on connectors and the added complexity of waterproofing them.

[via Hacked Gadgets]

Filed under: Robotics, Water Craft

Robotics Water Craft

Thursday, August 23, 2012

AUV Boot Camp - Part 1

This past week, the CSHEL team headed up to New Castle, New Hampshire for AUV Boot Camp, a weeklong workshop where scientists and professionals from around the world gather to develop and improve AUV methods. As an intern, I didn't know what to expect besides that I would be surrounded by a lot of really experienced people interconnected by their interest and use of autonomous underwater vehicles. In lieu of my very limited knowledge of AUVs, I knew this would be the perfect opportunity for me to observe marine scientists and engineers in their element and learn a bit more about AUVs along the way.

Our AUV sitting outside the Boot Camp tent at the UNH pier.

Our first day consisted of some general discussion regarding the upcoming week. We ran through some NOAA documents that specified proper methods for creating navigation-grade hydrographic maps, since that is one of our primary objectives this week. It was really interesting to listen to this group of 20 some-odd people bounce ideas off each other, each contributing things from their respective skill set. We heard from Brian Calder, CCOM research associate professor, about uncertainty for multi beam echo sounders (which I learned is abbreviated as MBES) for parameters like depth, sound speed, and others. It is surprising how much uncertainty there is in most of the factors we're dealing with. Therefore it takes some effort to minimize that variability and acknowledge it during data processing.

Brian leading a discussion on MBES uncertainty.

The day ended with a delicious cookout, highlighted by copious amounts of lobster and a noteworthy sunset.

Inline image 6

Day two brought our first offshore campaign in the Portsmouth Harbor and beyond. Two small groups of participants spent a half day each on the R/V Orion with "Tom-squared", as I have heard people here fondly refer to the two same-named boat captains as. In continuation of the previous day's discussions, the purpose of the mission was a patch test to resolve the latency between the two transducers.  

Carter deploying the AUV.

Trevor working onboard.

The rest of us back onshore split into groups and brainstormed the contributing sensors and environmental variables that make up horizontal or vertical uncertainty. My group, assigned to horizontal uncertainty, made a pretty good list. For sensors, you have the GPS, INS, DVL, depth and temperature sensors, Geoswath (bathymetric sensor), and sound velocimeter. Environmentally, the sea state and swell action, tides, seabed type, sound speed and temperature variation, bathymetric pressure, and others can all cause uncertainty. As I listened, I realized that basically every sensor and environmental variable can cause vertical uncertainty, so quantifying those adjustments are essential to an accurate data set. After discussion, each group presented their notes and as a whole, we brainstormed how these variables can be kept to a minimum.

On day three, Justin and I rose early to head out on the boat with Adam Skarke, a previous PhD candidate at UD now with NOAA's Office of Exploration. My sleepiness melted away as we puttered over the smooth, still water, enjoying the morning sun and perfect conditions. Our three hour campaign had a long lawnmower pattern with three short lines cutting perpendicularly across, for the purpose of observing navigational drift. This drift occurs because the AUV loses its connection to a GPS once it submerges, and then must utilize a different positioning system. Once the vehicle returned, we sent it out again for a short mission to run a line 500 meters out and then back on the same line. Unfortunately, it aborted its mission as the single battery had dropped to only 10%. However, our trip was still successful and we returned to the shore with good data and fresh sunburns.

We deployed a Seabird CTD with two attached Castaway CTDs. We will compare the data from the Castaways to the Seabird later.

We've done a lot so far, but we have much more ahead. Stay tuned for the second half of AUV Boot Camp! 

Danielle Ferraro

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Flickr, Science Come Together to Bring New Species to Light

Flickr, Science Come Together to Bring New Species to Light
starWired Top Stories
August 14, 2012 11:49 AM
by Scott Gilbertson

Flickr, Science Come Together to Bring New Species to Light

Want to discover a new species? Start combing through Flickr images. The site recently helped connect a macro photographer and insect enthusiast with scientists around the globe to collaboratively define a new species of green lacewing.

NOAA names Glang nation’s hydrographer, director of Coast Survey

Sunday, August 12, 2012

UCLA Scientist Discovers Plate Tectonics On Mars

UCLA Scientist Discovers Plate Tectonics On Mars

Reader SternisheFan links to a press release at UCLA, and excerpts from it another bit of Mars news: "For years, many scientists had thought that plate tectonics existed nowhere in our solar system but on Earth. Now, a UCLA scientist has discovered that the geological phenomenon, which involves the movement of huge crustal plates beneath a planet's surface, also exists on Mars. 'Mars is at a primitive stage of plate tectonics. It gives us a glimpse of how the early Earth may have looked and may help us understand how plate tectonics began on Earth,' said An Yin, a UCLA professor of Earth and space sciences and the sole author of the new research."

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Saturday, August 11, 2012

Huge pumice 'island' floating in Pacific - Science

NASA Morpheus Lander Test Ends In Explosion

Win some lose some but that's the way with all robotic system development...push on!!

NASA Morpheus Lander Test Ends In Explosion

First time accepted submitter DishpanMan writes "For every success story from NASA like Curiosity, there is a failure story, like today's Morpheus project test flight at Kennedy Space Center. The project is trying to build a low cost Moon and Asteroid lander using clean fuels on a shoestring budget. While tethered flight test were successful, today's actual flight test ended in a crash and a ball of fire followed by a spectacular explosion. Initial feedback points to hardware failure, but the investigation is still ongoing."

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Thursday, August 9, 2012

Declassified Photos Reveal CIA's Deep-Sea Rescue of a Spy Satellite | Danger Room |

Who's Who: Vinar Amrutia

Vinar Amrutia is a second year graduate student from India studying Computer and Information Sciences. He completed his undergraduate degree in Electronics Engineering from Mumbai University. His interests lie in computer networks and application development, and he is glad to attend the University of Delaware where he finds himself surrounded by inspiring professors and a large team of students with similar interests.


Vinar's role in the lab is to do whatever it takes to better CSHEL in terms of its hardware, software, and infrastructure. He also helps with the research work of Art and his graduate students by assisting with any necessary application or software requirements. For example, Justin's master's thesis involved determining the number and size of scallops in over twenty thousand images taken by an AUV. Undoubtedly, this process could not be completed by hand. Vinar developed an application to count and size the scallops, which dramatically eased the task. This application can also be applied to the sizing and counting of any substrate in the future.


Additionally, Vinar manages the massive data sets that Art and his team collect from various AUV missions. When dealing with such large amounts of information, it is important to effectively create a system to organize and back up the data. With only three courses left to take in his master's track, he is learning new application development tools, languages, and computer networking skills to make the work of the end users as easy as possible. 

Who's Who: Val Schmidt

Val Schmidt is a research engineer at the Center for Coastal and Ocean Mapping (CCOM) at the University of New Hampshire. CCOM is both a research and teaching institution that boasts a wide variety of focuses. These include sonar signal processing and calibration, satellite and underwater image processing, 4D visualization methods, and acoustic remote sensing, to name a few. Funded largely by NOAA's Office of Coast Survey, CCOM has a wealth of talented staff that works in the various breadths of ocean mapping. There, Val's work focuses on using AUVs for hydrographic mapping.


Val's connection to CSHEL is through his role as our chief engineer of AUV operations. Val has been working as the liaison between CSHEL and CCOM since the acquisition of CSHEL's AUV in 2009. In a collaborative effort, they have developed and reworked routine AUV operations, written data-processing software, worked with manufacturers, and developed three new modules. Val also teaches graduate students the workings of the AUV, from programming to operations to basic care.


Val's interest in the field was catalyzed by his time as an officer in the U.S. Navy. When he was an undergraduate, he joined the Navy and became an officer in the submarine fleet. He was stationed aboard the USS HAWKBILL submarine in Pearl Harbor for three years, a time he describes as a pivotal point in his life. In 1998, the ship was chosen to travel under the Arctic ice cap, mapping the seafloor and overhead ice while simultaneously measuring water chemistry, as part of a collaborative program between the Navy and the National Science Foundation. Each summer, over sixty days were spent under the polar ice cap. While Val did not remain in the Navy, he looks back upon that time as a challenging and important experience.


Before working at CCOM, Val completed his master's thesis there. His thesis was a unique investigation into acoustic positioning methods for whales. Every year, NOAA scientists tag some of the hundreds of humpback, finback, minke, and right whales that travel to Stellwagon Bank off of Boston's coast to feed in the summer. The tags provide useful information regarding the whale's behavior and swimming paths. While the tags do allow scientists to see an accurate representation of the whale's track, the tags do not produce absolute position. In Val's thesis, he developed a new system that would define the absolute position of the whale. Three high-frequency acoustic pingers aboard small boats followed the selected whale after it had been tagged. The tags record the signals from each of the pingers along with whale vocalizations. The measurements of the tag are converted to a distance relative to each boat, and the whale's position can be calculated, just as a GPS receiver locates its position from satellites.


Everyone at CSHEL is looking forward to joining Val as he co-hosts AUV Hydrographic Boot Camp at CCOM in a little over a week. There, he and Art will collaborate with a wide variety of scientists, professionals, and students to develop and rework the operational methods of AUVs.




Tuesday, August 7, 2012

AUV Hydrographic Bootcamp 2012 | The Center for Coastal and Ocean Mapping

AUV Adventures as told by Intern, Continued

After several days of testing each AUV module and ballasting the vehicle, we were ready to run missions offshore and observe their execution. Again, the purpose of this trip up to the Center for Coastal and Ocean Mapping (CCOM) at the University of New Hampshire was to prepare the vehicle for AUV Boot Camp in a few weeks. Therefore, it was important to run missions in the water in addition to the bench tests we performed onshore.


Tuesday brought two things- our first day at sea, and Art. Art flew in to Manchester late the previous evening, and Justin and I collected him from the airport early Tuesday morning. We headed straight to the UNH pier to meet with Val and Jen, a marine ecologist who joined us for our offshore missions. The five of us boarded the R/V Cocheco, a 34-foot CCOM vessel captained by Emily Terry. I learned a little bit about creating mission lines for the AUV. By typing a latitude and longitude for the start and end point, you create a line that the AUV will follow when the mission is executed. From there, you can adjust which devices and features are active during that line. For example, we could enable the camera to take one picture every second during that line, and then choose to disable it for the next line. We can also choose between a constant depth or altitude off the seafloor, constant speed or rpm, and a variety of other factors. Once the mission is modified in the desired way, we can upload the mission to the AUV, and then execute it.


All of our missions were successful on Tuesday, and it was really neat for me to see the AUV in action for the first time. Our high frequency sonar images came out wonderfully, with the bedforms clearly visible and defined. We even virtually captured a lobster from one of our camera images (spot it in the image below). Despite our success, it was slightly nerve-racking every time we broke our physical connections to the AUV and tossed it into the sea. Although we did have several forms of communication between us and the vehicle, there is definitely some anxiety when dealing with such a valuable piece of equipment. One of these means of communication is our iridium phone. When the AUV surfaces, the phone receives a text message saying that mission has completed (or failed) along with the coordinates of the surfaced vehicle.


After the completion of the day's final mission, strong currents drove the AUV through an area of lobster buoys, resulting in a bit of a chase before we were able to recover the AUV onboard. Art phrased the situation "an expensive game of Marco Polo." Marco Polo it may be, but we'll always consider it a success when we have the same number of recoveries as we do deployments.


We set out the next day for our second and final excursion at sea. Our objective was to map areas near the Isles of Shoals containing certain macroalgae for Jen. She is currently investigating various methods of image analysis for these macroalgae, and could potentially use the AUV for future research. I was surprised that the algae were large and solid enough to be visible via sonar. We also mounted a GoPro camera on the bottom of the vehicle for another form of image collection. Our first two lines were completed without error, but due to a time constraint, we altered our initial plan to combine  our last missions into one. The AUV was deployed as usual, but after about ten minutes, the iridium phone received a text message reading that the mission had aborted. Now what? The AUV was out there somewhere, floating at the surface after unsuccessfully attempting to complete the mission we programmed for it. Everyone kept their eyes locked on the waves, waiting anxiously for a flash of gold. Luckily, we were able to recover the AUV rather quickly. Unfortunately, the plastic tip of the nose cone looked as if it had collided rather hard into the seafloor. It is likely that the bathymetry of the seafloor changed too quickly for the vehicle to maintain its altitude from the bottom without colliding with anything. From the aborted mission, I learned that careful planning is one of the most important parts of using an AUV. When we ran out of time, we decided to make changes on the fly, which can lead to unintended errors.


In the ten days that I was in New Hampshire, I learned a lot. I got a crash course in everything AUV, and I feel more adequately prepared for boot camp in less than two weeks. It is really amazing to me how much of the AUV's capabilities I saw, knowing that this is just scraping the surface of what this vehicle can do. I am looking forward to boot camp, where I will be in the midst of even more talented people and surely learn exponentially more about our AUV.


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Shrink image file sizes with ImageOptim

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