Autonomous Docking and Recharging

Sponsor: US Department Energy
Project leads: Geoff Hollinger (OSU), Bryson Robertson (OSU), Pat Cross (HNEI), and Dana Manalang (UW-APL)

This project performs foundational research and testing to accelerate the sector-wide development and deployment of marine energy converters to provide Power-At-Sea. Specifically, we seek to overcome known challenges and knowledge gaps for the successful co-design of coupled Wave Energy Converter (WEC)-Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUV) systems; systems designed and tested for WEC array system health and environmental monitoring applications.  We are filling these key research gaps by providing fundamental technological and algorithmic research and testing, using a co-design approach, where the design of each component informs the overall design and capability of the joint WEC-AUV system. The developed numerical techniques are being rigorously physically tested in the O.H. Hinsdale Wave Research Lab at OSU with the goals of validating system hydrodynamics, testing WEC-AUV system control strategies, and increasing the feasibility of successful autonomous docking and inspection from a quiescent sea state to those regularly encountered at DOE-supported WEC test sites, such as PacWave in Oregon, the Wave Energy Test Site (WETS) in Hawaii, and the emerging Kilo Nalu nursery site. The project team includes the diverse and necessary expertise from Oregon State University, the University of Washington Applied Physics Lab, and the University of Hawaii at Manoa to ensure broad applicability of the proposed approaches.

Illustration of proposed co-design of WEC components with AUV docking and intelligent autonomy. Three potential designs are shown for WEC archetypes and docking station installations, which will be explored over the course of the project.

Autonomous Manipulation

Sponsor: Office of Naval Research
Project Leads: Aaron Marburg (UW), Joe Davidson (OSU), Geoff Hollinger (OSU)

This project is conducting fundamental research in control, perception, planning, and human interfaces to enable dexterous, robust, and flexible robotic manipulation in underwater environments.

The project’s long term vision is to develop semi-autonomous remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) capable of performing complex tasks such as hull cleaning or environmental sampling, in highly energetic conditions. An operator would provide high-level commands to the vehicle through an interface that provides advanced decision support, and the commands would be interpreted and executed using advanced robotic perception and trajectory optimization and control algorithms. The vehicle would use a soft gripper attached to a high-degree-of-freedom arm with onboard touch sensing to feel its way around the environment and provide a robust grasp.

In the near term, the project is developing these technologies in test environments, beginning with operation and manipulation of robotic arms on fixed, underwater test stands. The project’s four thrust areas include (1) perception and object identification, (2) gripper and tactile sensing, (3) decision support, and (4) trajectory optimization.

Link to short videos to learn more about this project’s components.

ROV ROPOS plugging a wet-mateable subsea connector into the HD Camera on the Ocean Observatories Initiative Cabled Array. (Image Credit: NSF-OOI/UW/CSSF)

Autonomous Inspection of Marine Hydrokinetic Energy Converters

Sponsor: Naval Facilities Engineering Systems Command
Project Leads: Brian Polagye (UW), Aaron Marburg (UW-APL), Geoff Hollinger (OSU)

The goal of this project is to develop and demonstrate a robotic platform capable of autonomous inspection of subsea infrastructure. Operations and maintenance (O&M) costs are a significant driver in the economics of marine hydrokinetic (MHK) energy generation systems. MHK converters are frequently installed offshore and in areas of strong tides or currents, which makes them difficult and dangerous to access. Robotic systems offer a compelling alternative for the regular inspection of MHK, and operating remotely with little or no human oversight. This program upgrades a medium-sized inspection-class remotely operated vehicle (ROV) to a fully computer-controlled robotic platform, and develops perception and autonomy algorithms to allow it to inspect MHK converters with minimal operator input.

The RAVEN unmanned underwater vehicle has been designed for the autonomous inspection of subsea marine energy infrastructure. (Image Credit: UW-APL)

MHK Seafloor Microgrid Demonstration

Sponsor: Naval Facilities Engineering Systems Command
Project Leads: Geoffrey Cram (UW), Burke Hales (OSU)

The primary goal of this project is to develop, deploy and operate a seafloor-based, rechargeable battery system, termed the Seafloor Power Vault, to demonstrate the feasibility of an island microgrid (i.e. a power distribution system not connected to a utility grid) that is capable of being charged by a marine hydrokinetic generator such as a wave energy converter. For this project, power will be generated by a modified NOMAD buoy and transmitted to the seafloor battery through an electrical-optical-mechanical umbilical cable.

The 225 kWh battery will be protected from the ocean environment by a sealed, one-atmosphere housing attached to a mud mat, deployed at a depth of 50 m and approximately 2 miles offshore at the PacWave North site, near Newport Oregon. This system will be capable of powering other devices on the seafloor, as well as supporting communications to shore via a cellular connection from the NOMAD buoy.

Seafloor Power Vault housing and mud mat (provisional). (Image Credit: Zach Gustlin, Einhorn Engineering)

Wave Energy Convertor – Unmanned Underwater Vehicle

Sponsor: Naval Facilities Engineering Systems Command
Project Leads: Jim Thomson (UW-APL), Bryson Robertson (OSU)

This project is advancing fundamental understanding and capabilities of wave energy systems to power autonomous assets in remote and forward-deployed environments. The project includes the evaluation and improvement of numerical modeling tools, the fabrication of a complete prototype, and field testing. The prototype will charge an inspection-class tethered unmanned underwater vehicle that will dock on the underside of a Wave Energy Converter platform.

Wave Energy Converter (WEC) harnessing renewable wave energy to power underwater vehicles for autonomous missions (Image Credit: Matthew Leary, OSU)

Resident Seabed Autonomy

Sponsor: Office of Naval Research
Project Leads: Warren Fox (UW-APL), Geoff Hollinger (OSU), Dana Manalang (UW-APL)

The Resident Seabed Autonomy (RSA) Unmanned Underwater Vehicle (UUV) docking project encompasses applied research and development to enable long-term submerged UUV operations without reliance upon an on-site support vessel. Project efforts include the development and integration of complete subsea docking functionality, including terminal homing, physical latching and unlatching, power and data transfer, and autonomously sensing a wide variety of environmental conditions. Underpinned by the implementation of a simulation environment to rapidly assess docking-related algorithms, the RSA team is working to fabricate a novel prototype docking system suitable for multiple sizes of UUV hulls, and seeks to test the prototype in progressively challenging environmental conditions. The RSA team is made up of APL-UW engineers and OSU CoRIS faculty and graduate students.