The Centrefor Maritime Research and Experimentation (CMRE) has participated in the first 2014 sea trials of the MORPH (Marine Robotic System of Self-Organising, logically Linked Physical Nodes) European Commission project.
The project aims to test the latest developments in multiple-vehicle coordination and formation flying based on echo-location. The trials occurred off the coast of Girona (Spain) and were led by the ViCOROB - Computer vision and robotics research Institute of the University of Girona.
More than 20 scientists from Germany, Portugal, Italy, France and Spain successfully tested cooperation among autonomous underwater and surface vehicles in executing survey trajectories avoiding existing obstacles.
This was a new step forward towards future skills for fleets of marine vehicles: more complex tasks will be experimented in future phases of the Project. This tested capability is relevant to permit safe actions in areas where visibility is low and obstacles are frequent.
Vehicles proved to be able to deal better with these challenges in teams, particularly in difficult environments such as, near cliff areas. Indeed, the MORPH project drives at demonstrating a system which can perform complex missions using a heterogeneous team of vehicles with complementary capacities. In this way using easier, cheaper, safer, single vehicles in teams, the mission would then be carried out more efficiently than by using more complex units.
The feasible launch on the market for this kind of technology is estimated in a 10-year time scale and possible applications include harbour protection, monitoring industrial infrastructures (offshore wind power installations, pipelines), sea mine detection, environmental monitoring, exploration of marine resources or archaeology, to name a few.
The MORPH project is a 4-year-long effort, launched in February 2012, and funded by the European Commission with an overall budget of 8,5 million euro within the EU 7th Framework Programme.
The role of CMRE within MORPH is to provide the communication infrastructure between the individual modules (vehicles). The ability to share data between submerged vehicles is crucial for the implementation of cooperative control schemes. CMRE is exploring novel techniques that will allow embedding location awareness into the underwater communications network, solving both the problems of inter-vehicle data exchange and relative positioning.