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Article Abstract – Lin et al. (2017)


A multi-autonomous underwater vehicle system for autonomous tracking of marine life

Authors and affiliations:

Yukun Lin1, Jerry Hsiung1, Richard Piersall2, Connor White3, Christopher G. Lowe3, and Christopher M. Clark2.

1Department of Computer Science and Mathematics, Harvey Mudd College
2Department of Engineering, Harvey Mudd College
3Department of Biological Sciences, CSU Long Beach


J. Field Robotics 34: 757–774. (2017)


This paper presents a multi-autonomous underwater vehicle system capable of cooperatively and autonomously tracking and following marine targets (i.e., fish) tagged with an acoustic transmitter. The AUVs have been equipped with stereo-hydrophones that receive signals broadcasted by the acoustic transmitter tags to enable real-time calculation of bearing-to-tag and distance-to-tag measurements. These measurements are shared between AUVs via acoustic modem and fused within each AUV's particle filter for estimating the target's position. The AUVs use a leader/follower multi-AUV control system to enable the AUVs to drive toward the estimated target state by following collision-free paths. Once within the local area of the target, the AUVs circumnavigate the target state until it moves to another area. The system builds on previous work by incorporating a new SmartTag package that can be attached to an individual's dorsal fin. The SmartTag houses a full inertial measurement unit (INU), video logger, acoustic transmitter, and timed release mechanism. After real-time AUV tracking experiments, the SmartTag is recovered. Logged IMU data are fused with logged AUV-obtained acoustic tag measurements within a particle filter to improve state estimation accuracy. This improvement is validated through a series of multi-AUV shark and boat tracking experiments conducted at Santa Catalina Island, California. When compared with previous work that did not use the SmartTag package, results demonstrated a decrease in mean position estimation error of 25–75%, tag orientation estimation errors dropped from 80° to 30°, the sensitivity of mean position error with respect to distance to the tag was less by a factor of 50, and the sensitivity of mean position error with respect to acoustic signal reception frequency to the tag was 25 times less. These statistics demonstrate a large improvement in the system's robustness when the SmartTag package is used.

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