RIVERWATCH: An Autonomous Surface-Aerial Marsupial Robot Team


Every once in a while we get a tip for a project that really, really, really blows our minds. This is one of them.

It looks like a basic catamaran with a few extra bells and whistles — except it is so much more than that. You’re looking at a fully Autonomous Surface Vehicle, complete with a piggybacking 6-rotor UAV. It’s decked out in cameras, sonar sensors, laser rangefinders, high accuracy GPS-RTK tracking, an IMU, oh, and did we mention the autonomous 6-rotor UAV capable of taking off and landing on it?

It all started out as a simple experiment within ECHORD (the European Clearing House for Open Robotics Development), and since then it has become a fully funded project at UNINOVA, a Centre of Technology and Systems in Portugal.

The purpose of the mind-blowing robot team is to collect data of river environments — think of it as Google Maps 2.0 — which is almost an understatement for what it is capable of.

You seriously have to watch the video after the break.


  1. Ren says:

    Nice, I didn’t see any mention of range or its power source, Can the hexacopter stay on the platform in choppy water, or wind gusts?

  2. lastchancename says:

    Very interesting where this will lead…

  3. poose says:

    I couldn’t help but notice the hull they used-looked like an older Hobie 18 cat hull.Those have very low draft (with the centerboards up) are very durable, very stable and require very little power to move them forward.

    I noticed in the video an electric trolling motor handing off the back of the starboard side.

    Their power source could be as simple as a 50cc honda generator. You can run one of those for days on 20-odd gallons of fuel if only powered up to recharge the propulsion batteries.

  4. Derek says:

    i was thinking the same thing, but nacra hulls. :)

    • Tony says:

      I don’t know, it appears the motor mounts are welded to the hull, which would imply metal.

      Also, how do they account for current drift? Navigating to a waypoint behind an island is great and all, but if the craft stops for any length of time current could cause it to drift into waters too shallow, potentially stranding the craft. Station keeping without a bow thruster can be challenging (can be done, it’s just challenging, and power consuming).

  5. rjSampaio says:

    This is my teacher project (Eduardo Pinto) a very big step from robots for RoboCup to this, but most eletronics are the same, PIC 18F and lots of ASM code.

    ATM the catamaran is in is backyard pool XD

  6. liuite says:
  7. Pabluski says:

    from wikipedia: Marsupials are an infraclass of mammals living primarily in the Southern Hemisphere. A distinctive characteristic, common to most species, is that the young are carried in a pouch.

  8. Jack Alope says:

    that snitch-boat need to be sunk

  9. Eka Vika says:

    man, that looks just like carrier command for the Amiga and Atari st :D

  10. dastasha says:

    very cool but to call it a hack doesnt do it justice. I think more of a hybrid

  11. Colin says:

    That was pretty bloody cool. I like that they’re making the mapping data publically available.

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