Solar-powered autonomous underwater
vehicles (SAUVs) may help detect chemical and biological
trends. Photo by Sanderson/Blidberg.
A collaborative group of researchers are conducting
experiments with underwater robots at Rensselaer’s Darrin Fresh
Water Institute on Lake George as part of the RiverNet project,
a National Science Foundation-funded initiative.
The group is developing a network of distributed sensing
devices and water-monitoring robots, including solar-powered
autonomous underwater vehicles (SAUVs), for detection of
chemical and biological trends that may guide the management
and improvement of water quality.
SAUVs are a new technology that will allow underwater robots
to be deployed long-term by using solar power. Autonomous
underwater vehicles (AUVs) equipped with sensors are currently
used for water monitoring, but must be taken out of the water
frequently to recharge the batteries.
The goal of ongoing experimentation is to develop SAUVs that
will communicate and network together, thus allowing a
coordinated effort of long-term monitoring, according to Art
Sanderson, professor of electrical, computer, and systems
engineering at Rensselaer and principal investigator of the
RiverNet project. Key technologies used in SAUVs include
integrated sensor microsystems, pervasive computing, wireless
communications, and sensor mobility with robotics.
During recent tests in Lake George, two SAUVs and one AUV
were deployed to test communication, interaction, and
maneuvering capabilities. Researchers were encouraged by the
success of the networking capabilities.
“The Lake George field tests provided us an excellent
opportunity to further our research and technology development
of SAUVs,” says Sanderson. “Once fully realized, this
technology will allow better monitoring of complex
environmental systems, including the Hudson River.”
Sanderson has been working on SAUV development in
collaboration with D. Richard Blidberg of the Autonomous
Undersea Systems Institute in Lee, N.H. Technology Systems
Inc., Falmouth Scientific Inc., and the Naval Undersea Warfare
Center are also part of the collaborative effort.
“This research is a significant step toward obtaining
real-time, 3-D sensor monitoring of water quality,” says Sandra
Nierzwicki-Bauer, chair of the external advisory committee of
the Upper Hudson Satellite of the Rivers and Estuaries Center,
and Darrin director.
Originally published in
Rensselaer Magazine, Spring 2005