Autonomous Underwater Vehicle Update

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Autonomous Underwater Vehicle Update

13/07/2020


A new set of Belgium Campus iTversity students have made their contribution to environmental conservation efforts by furthering the autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) project. Not familiar with this project? Let’s quickly get you up to speed.

The AUV project is a 12-month long collaborative effort between students from Belgium Campus iTversity and Penn State University, with a new set of Belgium Campus students taking over at the 6 month mark. Divided into two groups, these students were tasked with developing an autonomous underwater vehicle that detects water pollution. The project aims to provide countries without the technology or funds to effectively identify and treat polluted water with an affordable and accessible solution.

The project directly corresponds with the two specialisations offered as part of Belgium Campus’ Bachelor of Computing. One group was responsible for the autonomous navigation aspect of the vehicle using software engineering practice and the other group focused on the pollution detection aspect using data analytics. This not only allowed our students to implement what they have learned during their studies but to also push beyond this to acquire new knowledge and skills.

“We learnt so much about hardware design, simulation and object detection which is not covered in our normal software engineering curriculum. I was also driven to learn two new programming languages over a weekend and now have the opportunity to place these skills on my CV.” – Janay Sandar, 3rd year software engineering student.

The first set of students made great progress making it easy for this year’s students to pick up where they left off. The autonomous navigation team was able to refine the neural network, object detection code and autonomous navigation code developed by last year’s students and worked to integrate them into the system. They also used Python and C++ to develop the state machine which allows the AUV to automatically perform its various functions. These functions include diving into the water, detecting underwater objects using the built-in sensors and positional tracking and picking up underwater objects using its claw.

The pollution detection team was able to modify the website template and database foundation developed by last year’s students. With the use of MongoDB, they ensured that all the data collected by the drone could be captured and stored in a database ready to be viewed by the end user. They also linked this database to their website using programming languages including Angular and JavaScript.

“Once we receive access to the physical drone, our project will be near completion. Users will be able to view statistics on variables including pH, TDS, turbidity and temperature, in addition to the drone's location.” - Tanielle Pettitt, 3rd year software engineering student.

Unfortunately, due to the COVID-19 pandemic the teams were unable to complete the AUV as scheduled. Despite this, they presented their progress to the project sponsors who included representatives from the Penn State Applied Research Laboratory, Boeing and Lockheed Martin. The sponsors were impressed with what the students were able to achieve despite the difficult circumstances.

Projects like this are a testament to the good that can be achieved when students with different cultural and technical backgrounds work cohesively towards a common goal. Belgium Campus iTversity students are set to continue working on the AUV until a new set of Penn State students can take over. Keep an eye on our social media to stay up-to-date with their progress.