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Autonomous Helmsman for Unmanned Surface Vessels


The Technology

Unmanned surface vessels (USV) operate in a dynamic marine environment where other vessels and a dynamic surface increase the challenge of robotics control. SARA specializes in autonomous USV control and sensor integration. We are experts in the use of MOOS and IvPHelm as an embedded behavior-based software architecture for USVs.

The Applications

This program for the U.S. Navy considers the problem of autonomous USVs operating concurrently with other USVs and manned vessels in a marine environment. Specifically addressed is collision avoidance that follows COLREGs, the international and domestic rules of the road for marine vessels.

The Autonomous Helmsman adds behaviors to IvPHelm. IvPHelm is a behavior-based software environment that runs embedded on the USV. Multiple simple behaviors run concurrently within IvPHelm and a solver reviews behavior output and priority to create a emergent behavior- a result that optimally satisfies the collection of behaviors.

Action Plot results from multiple behaviors. Bright red represents most preferred action, green represents preferred action, and dark blue represents least preferred action. Three independent behaviors are combined to form the Action Selection (bottom right).

SARA's Autonomous Helmsman a complete package that integrates sensor inputs, navigation parameters, and mission objectives as inputs to the COLREGs behaviors. These behaviors work together to identify ownship's role as the stand-on or give-way vessel, in addition to other rules for collision avoidance.

The Advantages

  • MOOS and IvPHelm are demonstrated robotic control architecture that are supported across platforms, facilitating in-office development through in-field embedded processing.
  • IvPHelm offers an objective-function approach that considers all concurrent behaviors.
  • SARA has demonstrated experience deploying USVs that successfully adhere to nautical rules of the road.


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