By: Jeff Green and Kathryn Lear (authors/editors)
This Sep/Oct, Canada’s Memorial University of Newfoundland hosted the 2020 IEEE Oceanic Engineering Society (IEEE OES) Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV) Symposium for the first time.
The biennial international conference was scheduled to be held in person in St. John’s – the historic capital city in the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador – but the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic forced organizers to develop the event as a virtual symposium. The event took place online from Sept. 30-Oct. 3.
The conference was organized by a committee consisting of representatives from Memorial University, its Marine Institute, the National Research Council of Canada and industry.
Thanks to a strong partnership with Memorial’s Conference and Event Services unit, the committee successfully delivered an innovative conference program.
Dr. Neil Bose, vice-president (research) at Memorial University, was the organizing committee chair. He noted IEEE OES is renowned around the world as an organizer of this premier event that brings together experts from industry, government and academia from all over the globe.
“Early this year, we decided to plan for a remote online conference. The key was how to make it work,” Dr. Bose noted.
“We planned presentations in a time-zone friendly asynchronous mode so it worked around the world. And we also planned networking, social events, exhibitor’s spaces, workshops, cultural events and more.”
The 2020 symposium attracted more than 100 registrants and 70 extended abstracts and full papers from 20 countries.
Paper topics included leading edge AUV developments in navigation; design; control; sensor design and data fusion; autonomy; mission planning; applications; multi-vehicle systems and open source robotics. There were also three submissions for a student poster competition.
The primary sponsor for the symposium was Kongsberg Maritime. Richard Mills, vice-president, marine robotics sales at Kongsberg Maritime, told Memorial University’s Gazette that as an industry leader, they felt it was important to support the research and academic community as they work to identify future challenges.
“We are keen to see new technologies and capabilities, but also how today’s systems are being used in challenging environments. AUV2020 is very much a learning opportunity for us and we look forward to renewing old friendships and making new ones.”
Opportunities for advancement
Dr. Ting Zou, assistant professor, Department of Mechanical Engineering, Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science at Memorial, was the technical symposium chair.
Dr. Zou’s research focuses on the development of robotic technology for multiple areas, including underwater robots like AUVs, soft inspection robots to improve current inspection techniques for complex structures and intelligent robots based on AI methodology that can work independently without human intervention.
“The control of AUV and other underwater vehicles, like biologically inspired underwater robots, is one of my research focuses,” Dr. Zou told Memorial’s Gazette.
“I will take this opportunity to investigate the state-of-the-art in AUV control techniques to work in complex underwater environments.”
Gina Millar, research laboratory co-ordinator with Memorial’s Autonomous Ocean Systems Centre and symposium committee member, has worked in the water robotics industry for more than 15 years.
Ms. Millar says the majority of her time is spent working with the university’s International Submarine Engineering Explorer AUV, a deep-diving AUV rated for a 3,000 metre depth.
“The people I’m working with currently are conducting oil spill research. Some of their biggest challenges right now are their levels of autonomy with the vehicle,” Ms. Millar said in an interview with Memorial’s Gazette.
“Basically, we want the vehicle to make higher levels of thought processes and decisions. I think it is something that is important for the industry in general.”
“The AUV world is a small one, so we all have similar problems and it’s nice to get together with other people and do some brainstorming,” she added.
During the 2020 symposium, several awards were presented to members of the international AUV community.
Rising Star recipients
There were two recipients of the Rising Star Award.
This award is to “Honor mid-career researchers and faculty that have made a demonstrable difference to our field and have the potential of continuing on the stellar track that they are following.”
The 2020 winners of the Rising Star Awards were: Dr Michael Jakuba, WHOI, USA and Prof Martin Ludvigsen, NTNU, Norway.
Dr. Jakuba completed his PhD degree in the MIT WHOI Joint Program in 2007 in the area of hydrothermal plume detection work that was later applied to detecting and characterizing the plume from the Deepwater Horizon Oil spill.
He went on to do a postdoc at the University of Sydney before returning to WHOI where he is currently a Senior Engineer.
He has been at the forefront of AUV design and deployments and been on a large number of oceanographic research cruises with various autonomous vehicles including the ABE and Sentry AUVs, the HROV Nereus, SeaBED-class AUVs, as well as Iver2 and REMUS AUVs.
Some of his notable achievements include the design and build of the Clio biogeochemical AUV Sampler and being the lead on the HROV Nereid Under-Ice.
Martin Ludvigsen is Professor and manager of the Applied Underwater Robotics Laboratory (AUR-Lab) at the Department of Marine Technology, NTNU where he teaches the course Underwater Engineering in Trondheim, Norway.
Over the course of his career he has worked on a variety of projects including on Marine Archaeology – notably on the Ormen Lange project, on imaging with ROVs, AUVs and Surface Vehicles and in pioneering work in the Arctic environment in Svalbard on diurnal phytoplankton migration in the polar night. He is also a co-founder and CTO of the highly successful Blueye Robotics.
IEEE OES AUV Lifetime Achievement Award
This award is presented to the person who has significant achievement and contribution on AUV technology in their lifetime.
The IEEE OES AUV Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to Prof. António Manuel Pascoal, a Professor at Instituto Superior Técnico (IST) in Lisbon, Portugal, and the head of the DSOR – Dynamical Systems and Ocean Robotics Laboratory at IST.
António Pascoal has been working on Navigation, Guidance, and Control of Autonomous Vehicles, and Networked Control and Estimation at IST, Lisbon, Portugal, since the early 90’s. He obtained his PhD in Control Science from the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, in 1987.
He pioneered the development of ocean robotics in Europe and is one of the most influential professors in ocean robotics in the world.
He was one of the driving forces behind the development of the MARIUS AUV in one of the first European projects on ocean robotics. With his team, he has successfully designed the Caravela AUV, the Delfim class ASVs, the Maia AUV and the Autonomous Vertical Profiler (both developed in cooperation with his collaborators at the National Institute of Oceanography in Goa, India), the Medusa class ASV and AUVs, including the Deep-Sea Medusa. Recently, he also led the design of a through-water wireless optical modem.
He was IST’s Principal Investigator for ten EU funded collaborative research projects and several national research projects. These EU projects included the design of the vehicle and mission control systems of Sirene, an autonomous underwater shuttle, the design and implementation of the advanced multi-vehicle MORPH system capable of executing data acquisition and habitat mapping tasks in complex 3D environments, and the development of an innovative set-up between a diver and companion autonomous robots (underwater and surface) that exhibit cognitive behavior through learning, interpreting, and adapting to the diver’s behavior, physical state, and actions in the CADDY project.
He has supervised 10 PhD students and holds 2 patents. His former PhD students have moved to very important positions in academia and industry in Portugal and in Europe and Asia. António’s contributions in education are outstanding, not only because of breadth and depth, but also because of the engaging aspects of his method.
He has published a total of 70 book chapters and peer reviewed journal papers and 250 conference papers (h-index 34, i10-index 127).
He published seminal papers on path and trajectory tracking, on coordination and formation control under limited communications, as well as on navigation and acoustic positioning, with recent focus on cooperative navigation and control and on feature-based navigation.
His laboratory has built close collaboration links with international institutions and has attracted graduate students from all over the world to pursue their MSc and PhD degrees in fields related to dynamical system theory and ocean and aerial robotics. He also established strong collaboration links all over the world, including Europe, USA, Brazil, India, Korea, Japan and Macau. In particular, he has a 3-decade long cooperation with the National Institute of Oceanography in Goa, India,
He was Associate Editor of the IEEE Journal of Oceanic Engineering and of the International Journal of Systems, Control and Communications, Chair of the IFAC Technical Committee Marine Systems, 2008-2014, and the Representative of the Portuguese Foundation for Science and Technology (FCT) to EurOcean, the European Center for Information on Marine Science and Technology.
He has been the driving force behind the organization of several important workshops and conferences. He is the co-chair of the IEEE/MTS OCEANS 2021 conference that will take place in Porto, Portugal, in May 2021.
Finally, his contributions to OES, and to the society in general, are truly unique and engaging in their world-wide expression.
Community Appreciation Award
The Awards Committee also presented a one-time AUV Community Appreciation Award to Dr. Tom Curtin for his stellar work in identifying the hardest problems in terms of autonomous marine systems. He played a critical role in shepherding the technology while mentoring the people doing the work. This included his efforts related to funding the Spray, Slocum and University of Washington gliders. In funding the Odyssey (later Bluefin), Remus (Hydroid) and other AUVs and in pushing the entire concept of Autonomous Ocean Sampling Networks including multiple vehicle navigation, communications and docking. And finally this award is also for his continuing work for the good of the community with his engagement in K-16 involvement in marine technology.