Principal Investigator: Michael B. Matthews
This project encompasses investigations in areas of ocean technology that hold significant potential benefits for multiple areas of MBARI research:
P7B Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV) StudyThe use of AUVs has shown significant potential for expanding underwater research capabilities. Following up on the robotics research conducted in collaboration with students from Stanford University's Aerospace Robotics Laboratory, MBARI engineers are determining the missions and goals of an AUV program. After surveying institute scientists on their research needs, the study team will visit facilities considered to be leaders in the field of AUV technology (such as Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and Massachusetts Institute of Technology) to assess their state-of-the-art capabilities. They will also explore possible collaborations with AUV experts. The purpose is to assess which aspects of AUV-based science MBARI might be able to advance and which technologies could best be obtained from outside sources.
These findings will form the basis of an AUV specifications report. If MBARI management decides AUV development would be feasible, a project pre-proposal will be drafted. A subsequent detailed project proposal would reflect feedback from MBARI management and the board of directors.
P7C High-resolution mapping: tools and techniques As part of the three-year nested mapping and surveying project, MBARI engineers are evaluating options for meeting the needs of institute scientists to bridge the gap between large-scale (1-10km) bathymetric surveys and close-up visual observations, as made with an ROV. The requirements for an intermediate-scale (100-500m) mapping system include the capacities to measure both bathymetry and acoustic reflectivity. The two technologies under consideration for such medium-scale surveying are a multi-beam sonar and a phase-differencing side-scan sonar. Both work by sending a series of sound waves to consecutive, narrow strips of the seafloor and measuring the return intensities and times of the acoustic echoes to derive information on bathymetry and reflectivity. For high-resolution, small-scale (1-50m) mapping, engineers are evaluating both an electronic still camera and a laser line scanner.
None of these instruments have been used on a consistent basis on an ROV; typically they are deployed on a towfish. The advantage of ROV deployment is a much higher degree of control of the surveying process due to more precise maneuvering by the ROV. On the other hand, these systems are very sensitive both to rapid changes in vehicle attitude and to various acoustic and electromagnetic emissions from the vehicle. Since they would eventually be deployed on ROV Tiburon, it is important to evaluate the performance of these systems on Tiburon itself. Institute engineers plan to complete the evaluations as the R/V Western Flyer schedule allows and determine the feasibility of ROV-based surveying methods for MBARI.
Next: High-risk initiatives
Last updated: 29 October 2004