Let's Make Robots!

Autonomous Underwater Vehicle

Path Movement Underwater, Autonomously maintains a stable position in the water.
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The aim of the project was to design and build an underwater vehicle with an emphasis on stability such that it may possible to perform light well intervention. This evolved into a project with a (relatively) streamlined shape and a control system capable of maintaining a stable position, such that, upon rotating due to external force, the craft is capable of actuating back to it's original orientation. Some of the initial concepts can be seen here. CFD anaylsis was carried out to determine the drag coefficients of the various concepts.

Initial Concepts for the Craft

The concept on the bottom left was chosen for further development. The craft's frame is made from 12mm mild steel bar, model shown below.

The skin of the craft is 2mm mild steel sheeting. The final concept can be seen below.

The sensor array of the project is sparkfun's 9DOF razor IMU, which has a 3DOF accelerometer, 3DOF gyroscope and a 3DOF magnetometer. This feeds into an arduino mega 2560, which has control of six 12v DC motors which were cannibalised from a Rule 750GPH Bilge Pump. They are water proof, and have 50mm model boat propellers attached to them. They draw about 5.5~6.5A. They are controlled via. six motor controllers. These are custom made high current H bridges. They're currently a work in progress. The craft also has a data logger capable of logging any changes in orientation in pitch, yaw and roll. The basic idea of the electronics can be seen below.

The project is entering the final construction stage and hopefully will be finished in the next fortnight. 





Current State, Profile

Current State, showing external mounts. 

Update 04/04/11:

 A flotation test was carried out in a water tank. As you can see the craft floated with roughly 55% submerged. 0.5, 1 and 2 kg bags of sand were made up and used to appropriately weight the craft, to make the AUV as close to neutrally buoyant as possible. 

Flotation Test

Notice the M8 lifting eyes used to aid lifting the AUV in and out of the water. Upon submerging it was discovered water was entering the inside of the craft. The threads of all the bolts were vaselined, and rubber washers were used to guarantee a seal. The holes where the motor wires entered the craft were epoxied again, and siliconed. Subsequent testing confirmed the craft was water tight. 

Motor Driver


Shown above is the motor driver boards and weeks of painstaking effort. At first it was hoped to use power mosfets to construct an h-bridge. However after several melted mosfets, on-fire transistors and shorted PCBs, the decisions was taken to opt for mechanical relays instead. Two SPDT relays were arranged in an H bridge configuration, shown below:

H-Bridge Schematic

Six motor controllers were built, on three PCB boards. The only deviation was using relays rated at 12v/10A instead of 5v. Each board is powered by one 12v Lead acid battery. Tracks on the PCB are sitting at just over 3mm. 

PCB schematic

Note mistakes on this board. Three of the relays do not recieve power from the power rail, this was correcting by soldering wires on. Also some of the tracks (where the motors will be drawing their current) are far too thin and were made thicker before manufacture. Close up of boards shown below:


The final electronics tower can be seen below:

electronic tower

Show is the small fuse box, obtained from ebay. It used blade fuses. The size of fuse is yet to be determined. The power wires (blue/brown) can be seen, as can be motor wires (red). At the rear of the picture is the arduino control wires. On top is a piece of copper strip board. The IMU / Datalogger and Arduino was secured onto this strip board. The Arduino was held in place using velcro. 

Final testing will be put up soon.


Update 08/04/2011 - Final Testing Complete. More Videos to follow...

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We based our buoyancy calculations from Archimedes, such that the buoyancy force acting on the craft is equal to the weight of the water it displaces. This has been a bit tedious to get right but we are just about there.

As far as I'm away submarines have ballast tanks which they flood / empty to make the submarine positively buoyant or negatively buoyant as it dives / surfaces.

When I said intervention I was referring to 'light well intervention'. That's basically an interruption in the operation of the equipment used to retrieve oil offshore on the seabed for maintenance.  For example, often the equipment will not be operational and ROVs will be used to actuate different valves and test various functions. Ultimately, it would be beneficial to have an autonomous craft capable fo this and more.

I would like to point out that radio waves penetrate water do a depth inverse to their frequency.  I'm not solid on the mathematics to figure the exact depth, but the general gist is that as the frequency goes up, the radio wave penetrates less water.  It's less in pool water, and even less in sea water.  When you're ready to go for some serious depth, you'll either have to make it autonomous or use a tether.  Here's the data...


Also, be aware the FCC (or their equivalent in your country) frowns seriously if you boost the signal too much, and the military gets a bit touchy if you infringe upon one of their frequencies.

Thanks for that concern and subsequent advice. 

I would like to point out... the title of the robot. 


Oh yeah...  duh..  :)

I can see you carefully chose the soundtrack.

A few questions :

I don't see the innards?  Where is the battery(s),  do you have sand in bags? How do you get them in the bot?  I see only a small square plexi-glass rectangle on top - is this the brain case?

Where will the underwater video camera go?  What no underwater video camera? You need an underwater video camera !

I "did" read the title, Lasrin had an interesting point.   I have to say "more control is always better".   I would always want to have manual control in addition to autonomous. We all like choices right?  Since radio is not terribly effective, I was just thinking wouldn't it be cool if you could augment with remote control using underwater acoustics to transfer data?   Whales use low frequency to travel  hundred miles.  If the autonomous part goofed up you could whale sing, your bot to the surface :)

Great video of the testing. Keep the updates coming. This is a very cool project.

The right and left thrusters look interesting.  Could you please share a little more information about their design?  In your video they look to be fully inclosed.

... but I think the best part of this project is the use of the word "fortnight!"

In all seriousness, very nice work. The video makes it look like things are going well.

Hi, very good design.

I would like know what progam was used to make the CFD anaylsis ?


It is great thank you ...iwant to try work in it so im asking what about the programming code

Thank you