Solar robots

A group of US researchers is working to develop a network of distributed sensing devices and water-monitoring robots, including solar-powered autonomous underwater vehicles (SAUVs).

A group of researchers is working to develop a network of distributed sensing devices and water-monitoring robots, including solar-powered autonomous underwater vehicles (SAUVs).

Autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs) equipped with sensors are currently used for water monitoring, but must be taken out of the water frequently to recharge the batteries. SAUVs, on the other hand, will allow underwater robots to be deployed long-term by using solar power.

The goal of ongoing experimentation by the researchers at Rensselaer’s Darrin Fresh Water Institute (DFWI) on Lake George, NY is to develop SAUVs that will communicate and network together, thus allowing a coordinated effort of long-term monitoring, according to Art Sanderson, professor of electrical, computer, and systems engineering at Rensselaer.

During recent tests in Lake George at the DFWI, two SAUVs and one AUV were deployed to test communication, interaction, and manoeuvering capabilities. Researchers were encouraged by the success of the networking capabilities.

Sanderson has been working on SAUV development in collaboration with D. Richard Blidberg of the Autonomous Undersea Systems Institute in Lee, NH. The collaborative research group working on this project also includes Technology Systems, Falmouth Scientific, Rensselaer’s Darrin Fresh Water Institute, and the Naval Undersea Warfare Center.

“This research is a significant step toward obtaining real-time monitoring of water quality,” said Sandra Nierzwicki-Bauer, chair of the external advisory committee of the Upper Hudson Satellite of the Rivers and Estuaries Center, director of the Darrin Fresh Water Institute, and professor of biology at Rensselaer.

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