In addition to human divers equipped with sonar cameras, the U.S. Navy has also trained dolphins and sea lions to search for bombs on and around vessels. All these methods are expensive and can’t always deliver the best performance in all environments. Robots would seem to be the obvious answer and underwater robots have been the focus of much research and development in recent years. Now researchers at MIT have developed new algorithms to vastly improve the navigation and feature-detecting capabilities of these robots.
With the ultimate goal of designing completely autonomous robots that can navigate and map cloudy underwater environments without any prior knowledge of the environment and detect mines as small as 10 cm in diameter, Franz Hover, the Finmeccanica Career Development Assistant Professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, and graduate student Brendan Englot came up with algorithms to program a robot called the Hovering Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (HAUV).