Passive robotics for scalable seabed imaging
"Mapping in the background" will build a fleet of ultra-low cost passive underwater robotic platforms, or DriftCams, capable of building massive digital maps of the seafloor using underwater currents to drift along near the seabed. They will drift along completely unattended for periods of several weeks, which will eliminate the need for ships, which is the most expensive part of underwater robot operations, that are normally required for daily deployment and recovery.
A key advantage of DriftCams is their simplicity. Since only their only mission parameters are altitude off the seafloor and mission duration, they can easily be deployed by non-experts. We are developing passive surfacing buoyancy control systems that guarantee surface return when they run out of power, without leaving any material behind on the seafloor, and mission planners that use current simulations to make bettter targeted surveys.
This innovation fellowship is funded by the EPSRC, EP/S001182/1 “Mapping in the Background”, 2018 to 2021. We also have a series of deployments planned through the EU Marine Robotics Facility access program.