Extending the range and autonomy of LAUV: the ENDURANCE project.
The LAUV is a man-portable autonomous submarine originally designed LSTS-FEUP (Porto University) and commercially developed by its spin off: OceanScan - Marine Systems and Technology, Lda. The ENDURANCE project brings together these two institutions aiming to extend the existing system and create a new LAUV with improved autonomy and endurance.
The LAUV endurance was extended by using new battery technologies, switching off hardware when not being used (e.g. radios while underwater) and also optimizing vehicle trajectories by exploiting ocean current forecasts. As a result of this project, the latest generation of LAUV vehicles can now stay in the open sea for more than 48 hours and can be controlled using satellite communications only. This allows the vehicles to be left in the open sea, transmit live sensor readings, and allow scientists on the shore to decide where to dive next and collect new data.
But this leads to an additional problem: how to safely execute these operations if no human can stay awake for such a long time?
By allowing the robots to be commanded autonomously, humans don’t need to stay alert all the time but only when needed. Considering this, a new planning system (Ripples) was developed that manages the vehicles and uses forecasts (waves, currents, maritime traffic) to look out for threats, sending a text message (SMS) to human operators when their attention is actually necessary.
The system was developed iteratively and has been tested at sea multiple times. This Spring, the final demonstration of ENDURANCE will take place south of Algarve where the system will be used to detect and study ocean phenomena, streaming live data to scientists, in the safety of their offices / homes.