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10 October 2011
The team lowers Red Herring into the salt-water
ballasting tank provided by the Nato underwater
research center in Italy.
Red Herring sits, untethered, at the sea's surface.
When we send the signal to dive, we loose all radio
contact and the AUV must now rely on its artificial
intelligence software to complete its mission.
A CAD render of the new vehicle called "Barracuda"
Cambridge Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (CAUV) is an undergraduate-led project based in the Department of Engineering. It develops and operates AUVs - robotic submarines - for scientific research, with the goal that they should be small, modular and relatively low cost. The team enters the Student Autonomous Underwater Challenge - Europe (SAUC-E) every year. This provides some short term targets and an opportunity to exchange ideas with other universities.
SAUC-E attempts to stimulate progress in the areas of underwater technology and autonomy by challenging students to complete a series of missions based on activities that AUVs could be used for commercially. The tasks change from year to year, with no two courses being the same. This year the tasks included inspecting a pipe, surveying a wall, circling and then freeing a tethered buoy and tracking a surface vehicle as it moves around the arena. During a competition run the vehicle is not allowed to communicate with anything external, and tasks must be done consecutively without breaking the surface.
CAUV entered SAUC-E for the 5th year with their current vehicle, 'Red Herring'. It is a large, simple, robust vehicle, designed to be used as a software development platform while a highly integrated, user oriented vehicle is designed, manufactured and tested over a two year period. This was the second year Red Herring had been entered in SAUC-E, with the new hull due to compete in 2012.
The CAUV team performed strongly all week, with Red Herring the first vehicle to enter the main harbour. The team was able to put to sea every day, a substantial improvement in availability over last year that resulted in a lot of very valuable software testing and data recording being accomplished. They qualified for the semi-finals and looked on course to progress to the final when unfortunately technical difficulties struck and they were unable to record a semi-final run.
Despite this frustration the team was able to repair the problem and Red Herring was able to take to the water again the day after for further testing. Although not able to show off their full capabilities CAUV was awarded the prize for teamwork, with the society's discipline under stress and co-ordination of such a large team (11 people) praised.
Over the summer, five members of the society were in Cambridge working on the design for the new hull. This was possible due to the generosity of ARM and Autonomy, who sponsored the students to cover the associated costs. CAUV would like to thank them, along with all its other sponsors, as the society is funded entirely through sponsorship and could not exist without this support.
The Cambridge Autonomous Underwater Vehicle website: www.cambridgeauv.co.uk
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