Australian and U.S. based underwater robotics company Aquabotix has released the first commercially available swarming AUV/USV.
The newly-released Swarmdiver micro UAV and USV can operate on the surface and up to a depth of 50 metres, and an entire fleet can be controlled by a single operator. Each can receive a range of swarm formation commands with different grouping patterns, including diving simultaneously, and synchronised data capture from multiple points.
Swarming autonomous vehicles of the air or sea are seeing a rapid expansion of defence and intelligence gathering use cases, but Aquabotix appear to be targeting oceanography and other civilian data gathering uses with the commercial release of this vehicle, citing plume analysis, environmental monitoring, autonomous depth sounding and 3D synoptic data gathering as potential applications.
Aquabotix CEO Whitney Million said that ruggedisation, navigation, and synchronisation techniques have traditionally posed a challenge for synoptic data gathering with autonomous underwater vehicles.
“SwarmDiver is rugged enough to maintain operation in surf zone, allowing for data collection in near shore, shallow environments. Additionally, the synchronized vertical dive feature allows for multiple points of data to be collected simultaneously,” he said.
“Position, depth, and other data taken from these multiple points can be transmitted wirelessly when the vehicles surface, allowing for real time data analysis.”
Each micro AUV/USV is 75 centimetres in length, weighing in at 1.7 kilograms, and along with high-accuracy temperature and depth sensors, packs a multi-constellation GNSS unit that provides one metre location accuracy. Each unit can carry a payload of additional sensors, and the SwarmDiver can operate in surf zones for sustained periods, with a 2.5 hour battery life and 7 kilometre range.
Million said that environmental sensors such as those for dissolved oxygen, conductivity, and cameras could be integrated into each unit, depending on specific customer needs.
It will be interesting to monitor the uptake and range of customer applications for this unique market offering.