The Autonomous Underwater Vehicle developed by the Central Mechanical Engineering Research Institute seen at the Idukki reservoir in Kerala in this file picture. Photo: CMERI
The sea trials of the Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV) designed and developed by the Central Mechanical Engineering Research Institute (CMERI), Durgapur — a constituent establishment of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) — are slated to begin off the Chennai coast during the last week of January.
The ‘AUV-150,' as the prototype is named, is built to operate 150 metres under the sea. It was developed in technical collaboration with the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Kharagpur. The performance parameters of the lab-scale model, developed by IIT, acted as a precursor to the prototype developed by CSIR-CMERI. The project is sponsored by the Ministry of Earth Sciences.
The cylindrical AUV is capable of independently carrying out a plethora of underwater operations, including ocean floor-mapping, surveillance activities and oceanographic studies, based on data gathered using its onboard sensors.
The AUV underwent a series of sheltered water trials at the Defence Research and Development Organisation's (DRDO) Underwater Acoustic Research Facility (UARF) at Kerala's Idukki Reservoir over the last two years. The final leg of the still-water trials was conducted in the reservoir between September and October 2010.
CMERI Director Gautam Biswas said: “The National Institute of Ocean Technology [NIOT] earlier developed a Remotely Operated Vehicle [ROV] with the capability to dive much deeper. Our vehicle, however, is different in that it is not remotely operated from a control station ashore. It has an onboard computer that can be pre-programmed to carry out specific tasks, which makes it a smart vehicle endowed with the ability to devise its own stratagems to execute a mission. The payload and the configuration are determined by the nature of the mission it is tasked with.”
During the sea trials, the AUV's image processing capability would be assessed.
“Besides, its capacity to model environmental parameters such as temperature gradient, current, depth and salinity gradient would be scrutinised. Once the technology is proven through extensive sea trials, the AUV can be customised for applications like close-to-coast undersea monitoring, mine countermeasures, cable and pipeline surveys, besides a host of oceanographic studies,” Professor Biswas said.
The AUV has hybrid communication channels. It uses radio frequency while on surface, but switches to acoustic communication when submerged. “The AUV has its own power, propulsion, navigation and control systems. For movement underwater, it locates own geographical position using navigational sensors, while its forward-looking sonar facilitates obstacle evasion and safe passage. For effective operation, it is equipped with navigational sensors like the inertial navigation system, depth sonar, altimeter etc., and payload sensors like camera, side scan sonar and the like. It has extra roll stability, a cruising speed of up to four knots, and weighs about 490 kg,” Professor Biswas said.
The CSIR-CMERI held numerous meetings with experts from IIT-Kharagpur and NIOT during the development of the vehicle. “We also made a presentation at the Naval Science and Technological Laboratory [NSTL] at Visakhapatnam, which is developing its own AUV. The AUV-150 is one of the major projects executed by the CSIR family, and based on a few such projects, a joint R&D Council of CSIR-DRDO has been formed. The Indian Navy has also shown immense interest in our project,” Professor Biswas said.
The ‘AUV-150' was developed by a team of scientists of the Robotics and Automation division of CSIR-CMERI under the leadership of S.N. Shome.
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