Hanscom Sigma Xi, The Scientific Research Society, Meeting


Applications for Autonomous Underwater Vehicles

in Science, Industry, and Education


Dr. Seth O. Newburg, Research Engineer, Massachusetts Institute of Technology


Wednesday, 13 January 2010

MIT Lincoln Laboratory Auditorium

Refreshments: 3:30 PM, Talk 4 - 5 PM Joint Meeting with the IEEE Life Members


The oceans provide an important source of food and other natural resources and are a critical component of the global climate.  The harsh environment faced in underwater exploration and study presents many engineering challenges because of the extreme pressures and temperatures encountered and the high corrosivity and electromagnetic absorption of sea water.  Our mission is to develop advanced autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) technology and promote its use and benefits in the study and utilization of the oceans.  By incorporating onboard sensors, computers, power supply, and pre-programmed missions, AUVs have several advantages over manned submersibles and remotely operated vehicles (ROV), resulting in reduced cost of construction and operation.  Ultimately, these reduced costs will facilitate access to and expand our understanding of the ocean environment.


We have developed an AUV, the Odyssey IV, that is a multi-purpose vehicle system for a wide variety of applications.  The AUV is capable of both cruising and hovering maneuvers, is rated for 6000 meter depth dives, and can operate continuously for over 8 hours on a single battery charge.  Recently, the vehicle has performed imaging surveys of the ocean floor in Massachusetts Bay and Stellwagen Bank to study damage to offshore habitat caused by invasive species.  The AUV is being prepared for upcoming deep water missions to discover new colonies of rare cold-water coral species.  Also, the Odyssey IV is used to develop technology for autonomous inspection of ultra-deep manmade structures with navigation by machine vision for use in offshore oil and gas production operations.


The Reef Explorer vehicle is a lightweight, one-man-deployable, hybrid AUV-ROV that is capable of dives up to 25 meters.  The vehicle is tele-operated with manual and supervisory control.  Video and telemetry from the Reef Explorer is transmitted wirelessly and over the internet in real time to a pilot located anywhere with internet access.  The vehicle is routinely deployed in Kaneohe Bay, HI and remotely piloted from Cambridge, MA.  The applications for the Reef Explorer include habitat studies, ship hull inspection, and classroom-based virtual field trips to coral reefs.


Seth Newburg has been a research engineer in the MIT AUV Lab since March 2009.  His interests focused on underwater robotics technology ten years earlier while an undergraduate at MIT when he founded Project ORCA, a student team dedicated to designing AUVs for the International Autonomous Underwater Vehicles Competition sponsored by AUVSI and ONR.  The experience of implementing sonar systems for AUVs led him to pursue research in auditory physiology, including that of whales and dolphins, for his doctorate in biomedical engineering at Boston University.  As part of the AUV Lab's engineering team, Newburg draws on his multi-disciplinary background in carrying out his primary responsibility for the design and integration of robust sensor systems for the Odyssey IV autonomous underwater vehicle project.  The meeting will be held at the Lincoln Lab Auditorium at 4:00 PM. Refreshments will be served at 3:30 PM.  Registration is in the main lobby. 


Foreign national visitors to Lincoln Lab require visit requests. Please pre-register by e-mail to reception@ll.mit.edu and indicate your citizenship.  Please use the Wood Street Gate.  For directions go to http://www.ll.mit.edu/.


 For other information, contact Ed Altshuler, Chairman, at (781) 377-4662, or edward.altshuler@hanscom.af.mil