For the land we will have self-driving cars. As for the seas?

Drones. Self-driving cars. Flying robotaxi. If you believe the headlines of the last few years, ground transportation in the future will replace the robotic coaches, and fixtures, requiring virtually no human intervention, unless you download the app. But what about the other 70% of our planet’s surface — the part that is covered by water? Of course, there are already underwater drones capable of recording video in 4K for the next documentary the BBC. Vehicles with remote control (ROV) is able to descend thousands of meters to explore the ocean holes or repairing industrial infrastructure.

However, most robots currently on the water or under the water, still highly dependent on human factor. And this is understandable, given the unstructured environment of the seas and the weak connectivity of all that moves below the waves. Autonomous underwater vehicles (AUV), perhaps the closest to the smart machines of the ocean, however, often follow pre-programmed instructions.

A new generation of aquatic robots, conquering the sea and involving artificial intelligence, computer vision, advanced sensors and other technologies — are ready to plunge into the depths. Let’s see what we have prepared engineers.

Marine transformer

Nick Radford, technical Director Houston Mechatronics Inc. (HMI), does not dare to say the word “autonomy”, talking about the best creation of your startup — Aquanaut. He prefers the term “shared control”.

Aquanaut seems descended from the screen of the movie “transformers”. Underwater robot begins each mission in the form of a submarine, able to travel up to 200 miles on the battery, depending on the destination.

When Aquanaut reaches the destination, the oil and gas industry is first in line of those who wants to change HMI — its four specially designed and built linear actuator to work. Aquanaut unfolds into a robot with a head, upper torso and two manipulators, while remaining afloat.

A moment of Epiphany, when the engineer realized how to turn the submarine into a robot that arose in the day, when the office was laying the table. The answer suddenly seemed obvious.

“We’re just going to build a big, giant, underwater folding table,” says Radford.

The hardware was not the only problem of the team, consisting of veterans of robotics NASA like Radford, which they followed to solve it. To get rid of expensive support ships and large teams of people needed to manage a traditional ROV, Aquanaut was able to the smallest detail to feel its environment and transmit this information back to headquarters using an underwater acoustic communication system that existed before the Internet connection via the telephone line.

To solve the problem of low bandwidth, HMI Aquanaut equipped with a vision system consisting of acoustic, optical, and laser sensors. All of these dense data is compressed using proprietary technology HMI and sent one to a human operator, which manages the Aquanaut by means of a conventional computer mouse. Even a joystick is not required.

“I don’t know of anyone who has achieved this level of autonomy in dealing with the environment,” says Radford.

Earlier this year, HMI has received $ 20 million from Transocean, one of the world’s largest contractors in offshore drilling. That should be enough to finish the prototype of the Aquanaut, which, according to Radford, ready 99.8%. At the beginning of next year already planned “loud” demonstrations and commercial deployment in 2020.

“That gives us an incredible advantage is the fact that we were born and raised on the creation of robotic systems for remote locations,” says Radford. “It’s my life, I made a bet on it”.

On cruise control

Meanwhile, a startup from Boston is trying to solve the problem of ensuring the autonomy of courts in the sea. Sea Machines received about $ 12.5 million investment in the list of investors were Toyota and AI.

Sea Machines looking for inspiration in the industry of Autonomous cars, developing the so-called “exploration ships” that can be modified existing commercial court or the court’s work.

Earlier this year the startup announced the conclusion of a deal with Maersk, the world’s largest operator of containers on the deployment of artificial intelligence, computer vision and LiDAR on the new Danish container ship company. The technology works similarly to the advanced driver assistance systems, which are installed in vehicles to avoid hazards. The proof of concept will provide the basis for a future Autonomous system for the prevention of collisions.

Not only startups are trying to create an Autonomous system of navigation. Radford noted that the Rolls Royce is a leader in the development of Autonomous vehicles. His Intelligence Awareness system uses almost all types of loud modern technologies: neural networks, augmented reality, virtual reality and LiDAR.

In augmented reality mode, for example, live video stream from the vehicle’s sensors could detect both static and moving objects with the scene information about the types of ships in the region, and the distance to them, of course, and other data.

While safety is the primary motivation for automation of ships — more than 1,100 ships have been lost over the last ten years — these new technologies can make the court more efficient and less expensive to operate.

Sea hunt meets science

Marine robots can play an important role in saving the seas from environmental threats. In particular, from such threats as the lionfish. According to the Foundation of the ocean, the population of these endemic venomous fish is growing rapidly, because fish find new habitats and eats thirty times more than fit in the stomach. It rapidly reduces the population of young reef fish. Scientists and engineers are developing Autonomous robots for the destruction of invasive predator.

At Worcester Polytechnic Institute, for example, students build robots with spears, who use machine learning and computer vision to distinguish the Cape from other water types. Students are taught algorithms on thousands of different images of lionfish. The result is a machine for killing lionfish, which boasts of an accuracy of 95%.

A new wave of smart, independent robots dives, swims and surfs in the ocean and its deepest depths. These Autonomous systems are not necessarily designed to replace people, rather that we could not risk to go where I could not before, or to enhance Maritime security. Perhaps these innovations will inspire robots that ever plunged into the depths of aquatic planets away from Earth.

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