Another great post from Evan Ackerman at IEEE Spectrum:
This heterogeneous robotic team consists of a small autonomous UAV, an ASV (autonomous
surfin’surface vehicle), and an AUV (autonomous underwater vehicle). Here’s a rundown of the different bots and what they do, straight from the research paper:
- The Unicorn UAV is responsible for performing coverage of the entire survey region and provide up-to-date large-scale aerial imagery to the remote human scientists. After obtaining the expert-selected inspection sites, the UAV then re-broadcasts these waypoint directives to the other two robots underneath, while continuing to collect updated aerial footage of the entire region.
- The MARE ASV serves two primary roles: it is used to cache waypoint directives received from the Unicorn UAV, and it also relays these messages to the Aqua AUV when it surfaces. These roles are needed because the UAV has limited battery life, making it unable to wait until the Aqua UAV surfaces.
- The Aqua AUV is responsible for gathering ﬁne-scale imagery by performing close-up inspection of the target sites. While Aqua mainly operates underwater to navigate to these sites and collect footage, it also regularly ascends to the surface to listen for further messages from MARE and to update its localization using GPS.
The overall idea here is that researchers, safe and dry on land, can easily interact with the entire swarm (which is autonomous) in real-time, using the imagery that the UAV sends back to select locations for detailed underwater inspection by the AUV. This can even be done ultra-remotely, through a web interface, meaning that you’ll never even have to go to what looks like an exotic tropical island in person. Watch the system in action, and you’ll see how simple it is to control: