Underwater robots can explore seas and rivers, gathering in groups to solve problems together, if they learn to cooperate.
How can we teach robots?
Engineers in the Portuguese town of Porto are working on SUNRISE, a European research project developing drone submarines, which talk to each other using sound signals.
Computer Science Professor Chiara Petrioli is the project coordinator: “What you see here are underwater robots that are able to communicate and cooperate with each other, creating the so-called ‘Internet of underwater things’,” she explains. “It’s a novel concept that allows different devices, such as sensors and robots, to exchange information. This opens up new ways to monitor our oceans, lakes and rivers.”
A group of robots – each carrying a particular set of sensors – will scour the seabed looking for a lost object or a chemical leak. By working together, they can collect a lot of information in a short space of time.
Ricardo Martins, a researcher in embedded software, explained how the robots communicate with each other.
“The acoustic communication is very similar to how humans speak,” he says. “The vehicles talk to each other underwater, using a range of frequencies that goes from the frequencies produced by our voices to the inaudible acoustic spectrum.”