Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute

Rob McEwen
Control System Engineer

Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute
7700 Sandholdt Road
Moss Landing, CA 95039
Phone: (831) 775-1863
Fax: (831) 775-1646
email: rob@mbari.org


My objective at MBARI is to develop guidance, navigation and control systems for Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUVs). I have had the good fortune to work on many exciting and interesting projects here at MBARI. Some of them are:

  • Simulation and control of the Benthic Imaging AUV, which autonomously takes still photos of the sea floor. It uses a Nikon D3S and two strobes, mounted fore and aft. It flies slowly, and with an altitude of only 3 meters, creating a challenging control problem. This year we will be developing an algorithm that uses a mechanically scanning sonar mounted in the bow to sense obstructions and safely steer the vehicle over them while maintaining the 3 meter altitude as much as possible.

    Another interesting capability is that this vehicle has the ability to home to a moored beacon so that it can return to photograph the same locations. It can home to other beacons without surfacing, and get a position fix (like GPS) from each beacon. Here is a photograph of a beacon, contained in the orange float, taken by this vehicle at a depth of 850 meters (2,788 ft.). Next to it is an EK-60 echosounder in a yellow hard hat. Also present are a Tanner Crab, a Dover Sole, and various sea pens (Slender and Droopy).

    A project is currently underway to make mosaics from individual photographs like this. More photographs and information are here.

  • Control design, code development, simulation, and operation of the Docking AUV, 2006. The vehicle would fly an approach path, much like an airplane, into a conical dock fixed to the bottom. The dock was cabled to a shore station. Shore operators could then recharge the batteries, off-load data from the last mission, load the next mission, and re-launch the vehicle. The vehicle was able to autonomously locate the dock, fly the approach, and dock, in the open ocean, without assistance from a ship. Here is a video clip of three consecutive docking trials, taken from a camera mounted below the cone. More information on the docking project is here. Details of the design are available in the docking papers listed below. The project ended in 2006, and the vehicle has been converted to benthic imaging, described above.

  • Control design, code development, and simulation for the Mapping AUV, 2004. This vehicle makes beautiful and highly resolved sea-floor maps. See the maps and read more about it here and in the papers listed below. The vehicle is currently operational.

  • Control design, code development, and simulation for the Atlantic Layer Tracking Experiment (ALTEX) AUV, 2001. This was a prototype vehicle that we tested in the arctic. The vehicle was able to repeatedly dive from a lead (natural hole in the ice), run a mission of several kilometers, then return to the lead where it could come to the surface. Read more about it here and in the papers listed below. This vehicle is no longer operational.

I came to MBARI in 1998 from an aerospace background, where my principal project was attitude control of the MSTI spacecraft. 

Journal Papers:

  • "Docking Control System for a 54-cm (21") AUV," R. S. McEwen, B. W. Hobson, L. McBride, J. G. Bellingham.  IEEE Journal of Oceanic Engineering, Volume 33, Issue 4, October 2008, pages 550-562. A preliminary version of this paper appears in UUST 2007, listed below under Conference Papers.

  • "Performance of an AUV Navigation System at Arctic Latitudes," R. S. McEwen, H. Thomas, D. Weber, F. Psota.  IEEE Journal of Oceanic Engineering, Volume 30, Issue 2, April 2005, pages 443-454.  A preliminary version of this paper appears in Proc. MTS/IEEE Oceans Conf. 2003, listed below under Conference Papers.

Contributions to Journal Papers:

  • "A Peak-Capture Algorithm Used on an Autonomous Underwater Vehicle in the 2010 Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill Response Scientific Survey," Y. Zhang, R. S. McEwen, J. P. Ryan, and J. G. Bellingham, H. Thomas, C. H. Thompson, E. Rienecker.  Journal of Field Robotics, 115, C12070, under review.

  • "Design and Tests of an Adaptive Triggering Method for Capturing Peak Samples in a Thin Phytoplankton Layer by an Autonomous Underwater Vehicle," Y. Zhang, R. S. McEwen, J. P. Ryan, and J. G. Bellingham.  IEEE Journal of Oceanic Engineering, Vol. 35, No. 4, pp. 785-796, October 2010, DOI: 10.1109/JOE.2010.2081031.

Conference Papers, First Author and Contributions:

  • "Thermocline Tracking Based on Peak-Gradient Detection by an Autonomous Underwater Vehicle," Y. Zhang, J. G. Bellingham, M. Godin, J. P. Ryan, R. S. McEwen, B. Kieft, B. Hobson, and T. Hoover.   Proc. MTS/IEEE Oceans'10, pp. 1-4, Seattle, WA, U.S.A., September 2010.

  • "Closed-Loop Terrain Relative Navigation for AUVs with Non-Inertial Grade Navigation Sensors," 5. D. K. Meduna, S. M. Rock, and R. S. McEwen.   Proc. IEEE AUV'2010, pp. xx, Monterey, CA, U.S.A., September 2010.

  • "Efficient Propulsion for the Tethys Long-Range Autonomous Underwater Vehicle," J. G. Bellingham, Y. Zhang, J. E. Kerwin, J. Erikson, B. Hobson, B. Kieft, M. Godin, R. McEwen, T. Hoover, J. Paul, A. Hamilton, J. Franklin, and A. Banka.   Proc. IEEE AUV'2010, pp. 1-6, Monterey, CA, U.S.A., September 2010.

  • "An Adaptive Triggering Method for Capturing Peak Samples in a Think Phytoplankton Layer by an Autonomous Underwater Vehicle," Yanwu Zhang, Robert S. McEwen, John P. Ryan and James G. Bellingham.   In Proc. MTS/IEEE Oceans Conf., Biloxi, MS, October 26-29, 2009.

  • "AUV Terrain Relative Navigation Using Coarse Maps," D. Meduna, S. Rock, R. McEwen.   In 16th International Symposium on Unmanned Untethered Submersible Technology (UUST) Conference, August 26th, 2009, University of New Hampshire, Durham, NH.

  • "Low-Cost Terrain Relative Navigation for Long-Range AUVs," D. Meduna, S. Rock, R. McEwen.   In Proc. MTS/IEEE Oceans Conf., Quebec, CA, September 15-18 2008.

  • "The Development and Ocean Testing of an AUV Docking Station for a 21" AUV," B. W. Hobson, R. S. McEwen, J. Ericson, T. Hoover, L. McBride, F. Shane, J.G. Bellingham.  In Proc. MTS/IEEE Oceans Conf., Vancouver, CA, September 29 - October 4 2007, pages 1-6.

  • "Docking Control System for a 21" AUV, " R. S. McEwen, B. W. Hobson, J. G. Bellingham.  In 15th International Symposium on Unmanned Untethered Submersible Technology (UUST) Conference, August 19-22 2007, University of New Hampshire, Durham, NH.

  • "High-Resolution Multibeam and Sub-bottom Surveys of Submarine Canyons,Deep-Sea Fan Channels, and Gas Seeps Using the MBARI Mapping AUV," R. Henthorn, D.W. Caress, H. Thomas, R. McEwen, W.J. Kirkwood, C.K. Paull, R. Keaten.  Oceans 2006, 18-21 September, pages 1-6.

  • "The Development of a Docking Station for a Regional Cabled Observatory," J.G. Bellingham, R. S. McEwen, B. W. Hobson, in Proc. 4th Int. Workshop on Scientific Use of Submarine Cables, Dublin, Ireland, Feb. 2006, pp. 150-155.

  • "Results from MBARI's integrated mapping system," W.J. Kirkwood, D. W. Caress, H. Thomas, R. McEwen, F. Shane, R. Henthorn, P. McGill.   In Proc. MTS/IEEE Oceans Conf., Washington D.C., 18-23 September 2005, Volume 1, pages 563-570.

  • "Mapping payload development for MBARI's Dorado-class AUVs," W.J. Kirkwood, D. W. Caress, H. Thomas, M. Sibenac, R. McEwen, F. Shane, R. Henthorn, P. McGill.  In Proc. MTS/IEEE Oceans Conf., 2004, Volume 3, pages 1580-1585.

  • "Performance of an AUV Navigation System at Arctic Latitudes," R. McEwen, H Thomas, D. Weber, F. Psota.  In Proc. MTS/IEEE Oceans Conf., San Diego CA, September 22-26 2003, Volume 2, pages 642-653. This is a preliminary version of the journal paper above.

  • "Modular AUV for Routine Deep Water Science Operations," M. Sibenac, W.J. Kirkwood, R. McEwen, F. Shane, R. Henthorn, D. Gashler, H. Thomas.  In Proc. MTS/IEEE Oceans Conf., Biloxi MI, 29-31 October 2002, Volume 1, pages 167-172.

  • "Modeling and Control of a Variable-Length AUV," Rob McEwen and Knut Streitlien.  In 12th International Symposium on Unmanned Untethered Submersible Technology (UUST) Conference, 27 August 2001, University of New Hampshire, Durham, NH.  A later version of this paper with errata corrections is here.

  • "MSTI3 Star Tracker Attitude Determination and Estimation Algorithm," John Farazian, Rob McEwen, and Rick Todd. AIAA Guidance and Control Conference, 29 July 1996, San Diego.

  • "MSTI3 Attitude Control Software Development Using Automatic Code Generation," F. Tubb, R. McEwen, J. Farazian, A. Waddell. AIAA Small Satellite Conference, 29 Aug 1994, Utah State University, Logan UT.

  • "Spacecraft Attitude Control Software Development Using Automatic Code Generation Technologies," F. Tubb and R. McEwen. 2nd ESA International Conference on Guidance, Navigation and Control Systems, 12 Apr, 1994.

  • "Overview of the Miniature Sensor Technology Integration Attitude Control System," R. McEwen. AAS Conference on Guidance and Control, 2 Feb 1993, Keystone CO. Also presented at the Flight Mechanics/Estimation Theory Symposium, 17 May 1994, Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt MD.

  • "Quadratic Weight Adjustment for the Enhancement of Feedback Properties," R. McEwen and D. Looze. IEEE JACC Conference Proceedings, April 1981.

Education:

  • M.S.M.E., 1988, Stanford University. Specialization: Dynamics and Control.

  • M.S.E.E., 1982, University of Illinois,  Specialization: Robust Control Design.  Thesis: "Adjustment of Design Parameters for Improved Feedback Properties in the Linear Quadratic Regulator."

  • B.S.E.E., 1978, Purdue University. Graduated "With Distinction".

Pre-MBARI Work Experience:

Integrated Systems, Inc. (ISI) Santa Clara, CA, 1988-1998.

  • MSTI Spacecraft Attitude Control Design: Attitude control engineer for 3 spacecraft over a span of 7 years.  Flight code project manager for MSTI3.  Responsible for attitude control design, coding, testing, integration, documentation, and post-launch operation.
  • Linear Accelerator Beam Pointing Control:  Contributed to the development of a MIMO minimum variance control algorithm to reduce beam pointing error at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center.

  • Automotive Power Steering Control: Developed a classical, lag-compensation control algorithm and a real-time hardware-in-the-loop simulation for a prototype system at GM/Saginaw.

  • KKV Control Simulation: Simulated and verified control system design for a prototype Kinetic Kill Vehicle.

Lockheed Missiles and Space Co., Sunnyvale, CA, 1982-1988

  • Spacecraft Attitude Determination: Designed and simulated a Kalman Filter attitude determination algorithm based on gyrocompassing.
  • Hubble Space Telescope: Simulated a Sun-pointing safemode system.

DeAnza Community College, Cupertino, CA, 1984.

  • Instructor: Taught "Introduction to Control Systems."

University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana, IL, 1979.

  • Teaching Assistant: "Control Systems I,"  for Prof. B. C. Kuo. Included in the "Incomplete List of Excellent Teachers ".

Last updated: Jan. 20, 2011