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CIAM: Exploring the Challenges of Docking Procedures with a Remotely Operated AUV

Autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs) are already being used to inspect structures in deep waters. However, the systems are still accompanied by large supply ships, launched at sea, and retrieved – a risky and, at the same time, costly undertaking. Together with partners from industry and research, DFKI is developing intelligent AUVs in the joint project CIAM (“Cooperative Development of a Comprehensive Integrated Autonomous Underwater Monitoring Solution”). These systems are capable of covering large distances and monitoring deep-sea installations at different locations without the use of additional ships. The energy supply (and prospectively also the capture of broken-down underwater vehicles as well as the exchange of information) is to be ensured by actuated charging stations, which can be sent out as needed and dock autonomously to the systems. The video shows experiments in the large saltwater basin of the DFKI's Maritime Exploration Hall in Bremen. Until the actual hardware is available, the AUV Cuttlefish, which is technically similarly equipped, serves as a placeholder for the charging station and the tube as a placeholder for the target vehicle. The docking procedure, which is still manual here, is a highly complex operation even in calm waters. To check afterwards how exactly this process has worked, the positions of the Cuttlefish and the tube can be tracked live with the aid of a Qualisys motion tracking system. For this purpose, several reflective spheres are attached to the surfaces of the systems, which can be tracked by a total of twelve cameras with UV emitters.


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last updated 23.05.2023