RIVERWATCH: An Autonomous Surface-Aerial Marsupial Robot Team

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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.

24 thoughts on “RIVERWATCH: An Autonomous Surface-Aerial Marsupial Robot Team

  1. 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?

        1. True story. It’s a mammal, but it’s a monotreme which is probably the reason for the confusion. Also it looks weird and nothing like a mammal…

          1. yeah, you’re right, a platypus lays eggs, marsupials have pouches… So it may be powered by wallabies, wombats, kangaroos, opossums echidnas, or such…

      1. I believe it’s called that as it carries the UAV like a marsupial carries a baby in it’s pouch.

        Wouldn’t this gadget be a real “mystery” buster at Loch Ness (Scotland UK) and Lake Champlain (Vermont USA)? An automonous surface and subsurface surviellince system. Kinda’ like ASW for aquatic-cryptids?

  2. 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.

    1. 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).

  3. 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

      1. Solar power yes, charging, not so much, whit all the water around :p
        its hard to design a way to charge in those conditions.

        1. Inductive charging maybe? There may be a loss of efficiency when there’s seawater in the way but there would be no risk of shock or contact corrosion.

  4. 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.

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