Autonomous Surface Vehicle Competitions

Goals and Tasks

The objective of these Maritime Competitions is to advance the level of autonomy for the application of surface vehicles, through competition and cooperation. These competitions are task oriented, to focus on specific real world challenges for ASVs. As stated on the rules for the Maritime RobotX Challenge:

This competition is designed to foster student interest in autonomous robotic systems operating in the maritime domain, with an emphasis on the science and engineering of autonomy.

The tasks for the Maritime RobotX Challenge and the most recent RoboBoat competition were as follows: Demonstrate Navigation and Control, Acoustic Positioning, Docking, Observe and Report, and Obstacle Detection and Obstacle Avoidance. Along with these, the boat had to relay a heartbeat message back to the judges on their network and pass inspections to ensure that it was operating safely and properly. GPS coordinates were given for bounding boxes of each individual task, as well as a start GPS point to embark from.

RoboBoat Platform: SeaCat

SeaCat is a twin-hulled catamaran-style autonomous surface vehicle designed and built from the ground up by students from Villanova University. Making its third appearance this year at the 7th Annual AUVSI RoboBoat Competition, SeaCat has proved to be a stable and adaptable platform upon which modifications can be made to meet the challenging requirements of this year’s tasks. The tasks this year include underwater color sequence detection, obstacle field navigation, underwater acoustic location, and vision based autonomous docking.

This year’s work was focused on implementing major improvements in both the hardware and software aspects of SeaCat in order to improve the overall robustness of all aspects of the system. This includes an updated sensor suite with the addition of a LIDAR/Video sensor fusion system, hydrophones, and a new IMU, the development of an innovative fast Simultaneous Localization and Mapping (SLAM) algorithm for path planning, the implementation of a novel probabilistic model through Bayesian filtering for more accurate color recognition, and the development of a template matching algorithm for symbol detection and recognition.

RobotX Platform: WAM-V USV16

Unlike conventional boats, the hulls of a WAM-V conform to the surface of the water. A WAM-V does not push, slap or pierce the waves. It utilizes flexibility to adapt the structure and shape to the water surface.

A superstructure is flexibly connected to specially designed pontoons by several components that actually move in relation to one another. A WAM-V has springs, shock absorbers and ball joints to articulate the vessel and mitigate stresses to structure and payload. Two engine pods, containing the propulsion and ancillary systems, are fastened to the hulls with special hinges that keep the propellers in the water at all times. The inflatable pontoons act like the tires of a car, absorbing the high frequency waves.