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A Compact Autonomous Underwater Vehicle With Cephalopod-Inspired Propulsion

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In this paper, a bioinspired, compact, cost-effective autonomous underwater vehicle system is presented. Designed to operate in a heterogeneous, multivehicle collaboration hierarchy, the presented vehicle design features 3D printing technology to enable fast fabrication with a complex internal structure. Similar to a previous vehicle prototype, this system generates propulsive forces by expelling unsteady, pulsed jets, inspired by the locomotion of cephalopods and jellyfish. The novel thrusters enable the vehicle to be fully actuated in horizontal plane motions, without sacrificing the low-forward-drag, slender vehicle profile. By successively ingesting water and expelling finite water jets, periodic actuation forces are generated at all possible vehicle velocities, eliminating the need for control surfaces used in many conventional underwater vehicle designs. A semiactive buoyancy control system, inspired by the nautilus, adjusts the vehicle depth by passively allowing water flowing into and actively expelling water out of an internal bladder. A compact embedded system is developed to achieve the control and sensing capabilities necessary for multiagent interactions with the minimum required processing power and at a low energy cost. The new vehicle design also showcases an underwater optical communication system for short-range, high-speed data transmission, supplementing the conventional acoustic communication system. Experimental results show that, with the thruster motors powered at a 60% duty-cycle, the new vehicle is able to achieve a 1/4 zero-radius turn in 3.5 s and one-body-width sway translation in 2.5 s.
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Keywords: AUV; bioinspired; multivehicle collaboration; optical communication; propulsion

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: September 1, 2016

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  • The Marine Technology Society Journal is the flagship publication of the Marine Technology Society. It publishes the highest caliber, peer-reviewed papers on subjects of interest to the society: marine technology, ocean science, marine policy and education. The Journal is dedicated to publishing timely special issues on emerging ocean community concerns while also showcasing general interest and student-authored works.
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