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Engineering and Technology Colloquia Series

Autonomy: From Outer to Inner Space Deep Ocean Exploration using NASA Technology

Presented by: Kanna Rajan (Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute)
Category: Engineering Colloquia   Duration: 2 hours   Broadcast date: June 28, 2010
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Ocean science the world over is at a cusp, with a move from the expeditionary to the observatory mode of doing science. Recent policy decisions in the United States are pushing the technology for persistent observation and sampling which hitherto had been either economically unrealistic or unrealizable due to technical constraints. With the advent of ocean observatories, a number of key technologies have however proven to be promising for sustained ocean presence. In this context robots will need to be contextually aware and respond rapidly to evolving phenomenon, especially in coastal waters due to the diversity of atmospheric, oceanographic and land-sea interactions not to mention the societal impact they have on coastal communities. They will need to respond by exhibiting scientific opportunism while being aware of their own limitations in the harsh oceanic environment. Current robotic platforms however have inherent limitations; pre-defined sequences of commands are used to determine what actions the robot will perform and when irrespective of the context. As a consequence not only can the robot not recover from unforeseen failure conditions,but they’re unable to significantly leverage their substantial onboard assets to enable scientific discovery. To mitigate such shortcomings, we are developing deliberative techniques to dynamically command Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUV). Our effort is aimed to use a blend of generative and deliberative Artificial Intelligence Planning and Execution techniques to shed goals, introspectively analyze onboard resources and recover from failures. The end goal is towards unstructured exploration of the subsea environments that are a rich trove of problems for autonomous systems. The developed system is also being used for a terrestrial personal robot at a Silicon Valley startup and will soon be on a Planetary rover testbed in Europe. Our work is a continuum of efforts from research at NASA to command deep space probes and Mars rovers, the lessons of which we have factored into the oceanic domain. The talk will articulate the challenges of working in this hostile underwater domain, lay out the differences, and motivate our architecture for goal-driven autonomy on AUV’s.

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Kanna's Presentation PDF document (.pdf)