CMRE Aids MORPH Trials
From July 22-27, 2013, the NATO Center for Maritime Research and Experimentation (CMRE) participated in the 2013 sea trials of the MORPH (Marine Robotic System of Self-Organizing, logically Linked Physical Nodes) European Commission project, which aims to test the latest developments in multiple-vehicle coordination and formation flying based on echo-location. The trial occurred off the coast of Toulon (France) at the European Center of Underwater Technologies, part of the French Institute for Exploitation of the Sea (Ifremer).
CMRE demonstrated the software for combined data communication and ranging technique for underwater acoustic networks. The technique takes advantage of the inherent broadcast nature of the acoustic channel and the precise local time tagging available at the modem hardware to infer time of flight of the acoustic packets. This permits to underwater robots to work together, navigate in formation and share data without any physical connection, by communicating through acoustic modems in an underwater wireless network. The result is a well-organized flock of drones, an underwater system composed of multiple, heterogeneous marine robots which cooperate to perform a mission.
CMRE’s contribution to the 2013 sea trials was instrumental in the success of the test as the coordination algorithms developed by the project partners rely on the ability to exchange data and estimate relative positions of the vehicles. With this core capability the Consortium (32 scientists from five countries and other eight research organizations) successfully demonstrated coordinated maneuvers between four autonomous vehicles (two underwater and two surface) in a diamond-shaped formation.
This new robotic concept will provide efficient methods to map the undersea environment with great accuracy in challenging environments, with rugged terrain or structures with full 3D complexity. Field applications of this Project includes harbor protection, environmental and industrial infrastructures monitoring (as for example for offshore installations or pipelines), and mine countermeasures.
The MORPH project is a four-year-long effort, launched in February 2012, and funded by the European Commission with an overall budget of €8.5 million within the EU Seventh Framework Program.