Underwater robot made from recycled materials takes to international waters for SAUC-E competition

Issue date: 29 June 2012

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Reported by Daily Mail

An autonomous underwater robot designed and created by UWE Bristol Robotics students, has been entered for the prestigious SAUC-E competition at La Spezia in Italy this summer.

This is the third time that a team from UWE Bristol has taken part. Last year the team made great progress and was awarded the Innovation prize.

Historically the UWE Bristol team has performed brilliantly against teams from some of Europe's most prestigious Universities and this year the newly designed AUV has been built on a budget using recycled some common household appliances such as cameras from a PS3.

The Student Autonomous Underwater Vehicle Challenge Europe (SAUC-E) challenges the next generation of engineers to design and build an Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV) and then perform realistic missions in the underwater environment.

The event is designed to encourage young engineers and scientists to think about underwater technology and its future possibilities, as well as fostering interest in innovation and technology, and encouraging careers in the field.

Gareth Griffiths, a Masters by Research student at UWE Bristol, who is based at the Bristol Robotics Laboratory is leading the team under the supervision of Associate Professor in robotics Dr Sanja Dogramadzi.

Gareth explains the rationale for underwater robots and describes the robot that the team is putting together for the competition this year. “AUVs are used primarily for defence purposes such as mine detection, but we are also investigating other applications like cleaning base structures for sea wind farms or inspection of oil rigs.

“As AUVs are frequently required to operate in environments such as murky deep waters we need to equip them with tracking and vision sensors that enable safe but accurate movement.

“This year we are focusing on making the vehicle as lightweight as possible with an ability to localise in its environment. We have to work to a mission specification set by the competition organisers. We will be including depth sensors, compass, sonar, a sound velocity profiler (measures the velocity of sound and water and help calibrate the sonar for mapping an area) and two cameras. Wherever possible we have recycled materials to ensure that we are working to a sustainable agenda.

“A key part of the challenge is to build an AUV that will be robust enough to cope with a fairly hostile environment yet incorporating sophisticated equipment in a watertight and lightweight encasement.”

The involvement in the competition has proved very beneficial to students who have participated in previous years. Tom Rooney, who led the team last year, is now working on a PhD in underwater robotics at the BRL and another team member, Sam Hughes, has secured a sandwich year placement at SAAB SeaEye, a world leading Remotely Operated Vehicle company.

Dr Dogramadzi is supporting the team this year, she said, “This competition stretches students and gives a practical focus outside of their degree programme that allows them to apply their learning. The competition also gives an overview of the international expertise in a specialist area and to hone their skills and expand horizons. Working closely with each other also develops students' team skills and puts them in challenging situations that have to be resolved quickly and efficiently.

SAUC-E challenges the next generation of engineers and scientists to think about underwater technology and its future possibilities, as well as fostering interest in innovation and technology, and encouraging careers in the field

SAUC-E is to be held at La Spezia in Italy at the NATO Undersea Research Centre (NURC) from 6 to 13 July 2012. The Centre enables the competition participants to test out their robots in real life ocean conditions (limited visibility and salty water) in a sheltered harbour area.

The team have a blog www.uwesub.com and will be posting updates throughout preparation and during the competition.

Sponsorship has been secured from Harwin and the BMT group. Harwin is a manufacturer of high reliability and industry standard interconnects and associated PCB hardware. BMT Group is the leading international design, engineering and risk management consultancy offering services to the defence, energy, environment and transport sectors. The company recently launched the SHOAL project which saw robotic fish being deployed in Gijon Harbour, in Spain to detect pollution.


Editor's Notes

For more information on SAUC-E and NURC please contact NURC PAO pao@nurc.nato.int

NURC (NATO Undersea Research Centre) is pleased to host for the third time SAUC-Europe (Student Autonomous Underwater Vehicle Challenge – Europe). The event is designed to encourage youth to think about underwater technology and related applications while fostering innovation and technology. It also aims at getting young engineers and scientists to consider careers in the field.

For one week, 15 teams of students, coming from 12 Universities, will compete and test their autonomous underwater vehicles at the NURC waterfront in La Spezia (Italy).

For more www.sauc-europe.com

About NURC. The NATO Undersea Research Centre (NURC) is located in La Spezia, Italy. A command element of Supreme Allied Commander Transformation, the Centre focuses on research, innovation and technology in areas such as defence of maritime forces and installations against terrorism and piracy, secure networks, development of the common operational picture, the maritime component of expeditionary operations, mine countermeasures systems, non lethal protection for ports and harbours, anti-submarine warfare and marine mammal risk mitigation. NURC operates two ships, NRV Alliance, a 93-meter 3,180-ton open-ocean research vessel, and CRV Leonardo, a smaller ship designed for coastal operations. In addition to its laboratories the Centre is equipped with a fleet of autonomous underwater and surface vehicles and a world-class inventory of seagoing sensors.

BMT Group

BMT Group is an international design, engineering and risk management consultancy, working principally in the defence, energy and environment, and transport sectors.

BMT invests significantly in research. Its customers are served through a network of international subsidiary companies. The group's assets are held in beneficial ownership for its staff.

Website: www.bmt.org


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