Wednesday, July 29, 2009

AUVSI 09 Day 2

It's been a long day for the USNA AUV team we left the hotel for testing at 4:50am and didn't finish until almost 8pm, making for an exhausted, but satified team. The vehicle performed very well today, qualifying in the first seconds after being lowered into the TRANSDEC and proving that it's robust design has great potential for the competition.

Below is a combination of all the pictures that we took of all the other team's vehicles in the AUVSI competition and them working around the pool.


Today was a long but progressive day. We arrived yesterday evening late after barely making our flight connection in Atlanta.

This morning we expected to have our vehicle at the TRANSDEC facility waiting for us be unfortunately it didn't arrive until 2 hours later. Not being deterred, we at breakfast at the nearest Denny's and to our surprise met a USNA alumni which covertly and graciously paid for our breakfast!

After we picked up our gear, we headed over to a nearby pool for testing where we spent most of the day threshing out any possible bug we could stir up.

During the testing Captain Nicholson and Sayre took a trip to the Tecnadyne company, who refurbished two of our thrusters, where we got a tour of the literally "in house" workshop where our thrusters were built.

To finish the long day we ate a satifying dinner at Olive Garden and made plans to leave our hotel at 4:50am tomorrow morning to begin testing again.

(The picture is of the TRANSDEC facility that we will be competing in)

Friday, July 24, 2009


Today we shipped our vehicle. After very promising testing yesterday we are excited about the upcoming competition and our odds against other teams. We were able to use pelican cases for transport this year, giving us peace of mind as to the safety of our vehicle and tools during transport.

San Diego here we come!

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Major progress with cameras

After looking through the parts bin, we found a lens that can see objects from a reasonable distance (closer than 6 feet away)! After a day in the pool with the new lens taking some training pictures and some time with the DVT scripting tools, a product has been created that can now recognize the majority of the competition vision tasks. Future testing will be conducted to evaluate the product's ability to recognize objects at varying lighting conditions and distances from objects.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

A Productive Week

This week the team was able to do two days of pool testing which helped us to identify a couple of areas in the control code where we could optimize and improve the overall vehicle performance. Our mission devices have all been designed and we are waiting for a few of the last pieces to arrive before we attach them to the vehicle.

The vehicle's cameras are currently being trained to the competition elements that we constructed. (More Pictures of those photo album on the right side)
Here are a few of the pictures from the testing this week.

Returned and Working

The entire team is back now and our team Captain even got married! Here is a picture of him and his new wife at the Wedding and in Barbados during their Honeymoon.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Another week has gone by and progress has been achieved. Numerous hurdles have been overcome including the fixing of the addition to kill switch relay and getting rid of a battery. One of our problems was that it seemed like the vehicle would recieve intermitent commands to the thrusters. this resulted in some serious code searching for probelms. However, it seems the fault lay with a bad battery. Right now the vehicle can maintain a stable depth, reasonable heading control, and waypoint navigation all at the same time. Additionally, we have the dropper board installed inside of the vehicle and ready to be used. It seems our biggest hurdle now will be finding places to put everything onto the vehicle. Maybe we''ll give this turtle some legs. Either way our vehicle is now more capable than the vehicle we had at the end of last years compeition ahcieving an almost .1 m accuracy to waypoints can maintain that point within .3 m. Next week all the troops will be assembled and we shall see how much we can do. The video is of the vehicle sucessfully completing the box test, drive a series of waypoints in the shape of a box below the water while maintinging a depth of 1 foot. The only real issue seems to be a need for better heading control and that without the weight of the cameras the vehicle pitches but those should be resolved before the competion.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Its been a while

I guess we have been slacking when it comes to posting recent developments. That will happen when graduation, comission, final exams, and one team member getting married all occur at the same time. Anyway, currently we have constructed an entire mock up of the course we will be facing in San Deigo so that we will be able to fully test of AUV prior to the compeition. Hopefully this means we can post video prior to the competition to instill fear amongst our foes, but we'll see. The kill switch has also been modified to accomodate the new rules requiring the kill switch to be on and magnet passed over a reed switch to allow the thrusters to power on . The new DVL has been fully integrated into the programing code. We have also finally managed to get the power supply issues to our wireless router completely figured out, freeing us of the infernal Xbee and hyperterminal. For those who don't know what those are, consider yourself lucky. Additionally, we have recieved and calibrated our new compass, a TCM 2.6, and it seems to working fine. Maybe just maybe, we will have a reliable compass but it has yet to be installed. The guy in charge of the forward instrument case is dillydalling in some sunny locale. That is all for now and I will post as more as things occur.

Friday, April 24, 2009

We did implementation testing of our programming buoy today. The buoy will allow us, during testing, to easily modify the AUV's programming with a drag and drop GUI as well as view live video feeds while the vehicle is submerged. We found that the powering of the buoy is ok, although the battery life was shorter then we expected and the wiring of the Ethernet cable through the SEACON connector was mis-wired. We have fixed the wiring but are waiting to charge the existing batteries fully before our next test.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Stable Control Testing

The above video shows pool testing demonstrating stable heading, depth, and pitch control. The photos are a few from the same testing session (More to come)

Monday, April 13, 2009

Pool Testing

More footage from testing last Friday.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Depth and Pitch Test

The team successfully completed a stable depth and pitch test of the AUV. After tweaking the integral and derivative terms in our PID depth controller we were able to eliminate any oscillation and achieve a very acceptable settling time. The depth cell which was used for this test has a slight bias that caused a small amount of depth error but this problem will be rectified shortly when the new cell is installed.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Monday, March 30, 2009

Component Integration Tests Complete

All tests of the AUV components including the thrusters, DVL, depth cell, and compass are completed. Each of the ports had to be checked for pin-out order, voltage supplied and communication with the main computer to ensure that the vehicle is ready for water testing.

We are programming a demonstration plan for the AUV to include precision navigation using the compass and depth cell. The demonstration/test is scheduled for Friday and will show that our vehicle is completed and ready for operation. Naturally, we are going to continue to upgrade and perfect the programming and tasking for the vehicle but we will merely be making tweaks and improvements.

The frame is not going to be returned from the paint shop until thursday which means that we need to have the computer and programming ready for installation as soon as the frame is returned.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Looking Back...

After returning from break we weighed the AUV and were pleased when it weighed in at 38.92lbs. This is a significant improvement from last year's vehicle (yellow AUV above) which was 50lbs at the competition.
This was one of the primary objectives throughout the construction process this year and was accomplished through multiple means. Primarily the Doppler Velocity Log, Main Pelican Case housing, and clear Camera Case housing were all substituted for smaller equivalents.

The frame was dropped off today for painting at Fitzgerald Body shop in Rockville, MD which graciously offered to give the extruded plexiglass a high gloss professional paint job. We hope to have it back by next week so we can begin pool testing.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Wiring Is Complete

All major systems of the 2009 AUV nicknamed "Awkward Turtle" have been wired and connected to the computer and vehicle. Before all systems are powered up we are going to conduct a complete system voltage and continuity checks to ensure that all of our systems will not be overloaded or "fried". All of these check will be completed after spring break while everyone takes some much deserved time off and we prepare for the end of the semester.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Sunday, March 8, 2009

The Brain

The big push this week is to complete the wiring of the components to the computer and ensure that all leads are installed correctly. This is easier said then done, as shown by the picture, because there is such a mass of identical wires that can only go to their one specific place on the computer or power sources.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Leak Testing Complete

The testing of all waterproof connections on the vehicle main housing and camera housing is complete. Upon submerging the housings under the surface of the water they were moved to different depths with 15 feet being the maximum. Total testing time underwater was 1 hour 45 minutes. After retrieval, the inside's of the cases were visually and physically inspected for any moisture that might have leaked through. No moisture was found inside of either case, passing all tests with flying colors.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Waterproof Connections Installed

All eleven waterproof SeaCon connectors have been installed on the main housing as well as the one on the camera housing. The layout of the connectors had to be precisely measured in order to ensure maximum spacing between the elements which would give the greatest amount of structural stability of the front mounting area.

The penetrations will allow for a method of disconnecting any single element without compromising the water tight integrity of the main housing. These connectors connect the thrusters, depth cell, cameras, compass, sonar, Ethernet tether, and kill switch to the main housing.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Breakout Board Completed

Today the breakout board for the computer to communicate with all the components has been completed. The greatest improvement over last year's design is the footprint, which is essentially half the area as last year's board and now fits completely beneath the computer. This puts the team on schedule to complete the vehicle assembly by spring break next week.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Circuit Board Design Complete

The circuit board has been designed, completed and sent out for printing. The design has been greatly improved from last year's AUV. The new design has a smaller footprint and is more efficient on it's use of pins. With the new design we have also created an effective way of managing the wires to make the overall appearance much more professional and organized.

Camera box mk1mod2

The previously designed camera box foam enclosure was using 4lb/ft^3 weight foam. This presented the possibility of it breaking in some way. The new foam enclosure uses 10lb/ft^3 weight foam and has characteristics similar to a wood block.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Camera box design

Many different solutions as to the creation of a structure for the inside of the camera box were devised. However, since it is hard to effectively glue anything to the plastic of which the camera box is made, a foam structure was carved. This stops movement by simply filling all of the free space within the box, and will help prevent reflected light within the box.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009


The new DVL is up and running. There are significant changes from last year's DVL but it will still provide the necessary, though less, data. However, this data comes in a different format than last year's DVL so the code will have to be significantly changed. Also, the DVL does not operate normally in air, going into a search mode that causes a very slow ping rate. On a side note, LinkQuest provides little documentation on their product and customer support can be frustrating, but entertaining, to deal with.

New Compass

Due to poor performance and a decaying lifespan we have sought a new compass to replace the old Honeywell that we have been using for years.

The new compass has improved versatility with a greater pitch and roll range as well as hard and soft iron calibration. The new TCM 5 compass was graciously given to us by PNI and we are looking forward to installing it on the vehicle.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Through box switch

A test rig was constructed using an old Pelican case and an electromagnet from last year's team. First a hall effect switch was tested; in theory this switch will stop current flow when a certain density of magnetic flux is near it. Testing outside the box worked extremely well from all directions, but failed when connected to the test rig. The reed switch could be triggered through the test rig only using a stack of at least 4 rare earth magnets. If a stronger electromagnet could be found, I beleive that both could easily be triggered through the box. However, the hall effect sensor would be the way to go since the direction of the magnetic force does not effect its trigger.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

The Frame has been Fabricated

This week we finished the fabrication of the frame and it turned out practically identically to what we designed on the computer. There are still a few washers that need to be added and holes to drill which allow free flooding of the frame but the entire team is very pleased with the results.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Compass Calibration

Calibrating the compass has proved to be more of a challenge then expected because due to a saturation of magnetic fields in our lab building we cannot calibrate it in our lab.

I have another location but with the same results. I'm sending it to one last location for calibration and if we are still encountering magnetic saturation then the problem may be with the compass. The good news is that the roll and pitch measurements are accurate and reliable to +/- 80 degrees.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Method For a Robust Camera System

By teaching the camera multiple models of the same object in different lighting conditions, a change in lighting will not effect its ability to recognize an object. The more cases it it taught, the less of a chance lighting will cause any effect. Frame refresh rate is still extremely low, somewhere near 0.5 Hz. I have attempted to optimize it by limiting the pre-processes (ie. filters) the camera uses, but this has only had minor effects.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Object locate function

It appears that the cameras have an object locate function. They don't react to changes in light, and are pretty much the best thing ever created! Simply tell it what object to find, and it does, about 90% of the time!

Thursday, January 29, 2009

A Little Motivation!

Resident Camera Guru
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Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Small success with camera

Playing around with a few of the onboard sensors, a combination of useable and somewhat robust sensors were just found. Utilizing the onboard color relearning function (allows for multiple colors to be stored and the most dominate one is passed to other sensors for processing) and auto gain and exposure adjusting, the ball can easily be recognized in both normal and semi-low lighting conditions. The biggest issue is that the auto adjusting features, which without them this process would not work, cause a very slow response time in changes in motion. To correct this, the auto-iris side project must be completed.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Compass Evaluation

After inspection and evaluation of the compass we think that the compass should be similarly mounted as last year. We will need to do proper calibration which will hopefully fix the drifting gyro correction that was experienced in the past. More updates to follow.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Gantt Chart Updated

Here is the updated Gantt Chart. We are doing all right for the beginning of the semester but are behind in a few key areas that we need to catch up on.

To download the updated Gantt Chart click here
To download a free .mpp viewer click here

Friday, January 23, 2009

New direction for cameras

As a result of dissapointing real world testing Wed. a search for a new method of lighting control was started. Two auto-iris lenses were found in our "bag of tricks" and a quest to fit them onto the current system has begun. Currently the connections between the lenses and the DVT cameras do not match, however a seperate subsystem is in the works. A variety of power control chips and a PIC processor are going to be impliment to create a system independant of the main computer that will run from values the DVT will output. High hopes for the usefullness of these lenses ability to control the ever present lighting issue.

Camera Boxes tested

The new camera boxes have been tested today. They were set at a 16' depth for 2.5 hours using a 5 pound weight in the NARC test pool. No leaks! Perfectly water tight as of now, next step is to check with SEACONs attatched. Not expecting any problems.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

This Week's Progress

Our frame is almost done and it's going to completed very soon.
We need to work on picking out a team name in the near future...hopefully something that's not too embarrassing.
The vision system is being tweaked but at this week's meeting we were able to find a buoy in a lighted and dark room with a light but we want to work on some of the line tracking and underwater factors this week.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Torpedo Idea

We are starting to brainstorm possible ideas for the "Torpedo device." Here is an idea that Sayre came up with as a possible solution. This might be overly complicating the idea.

2009 AUVSI Rules

The preliminary 2009 AUVSI Competition Rules are up which is leading us to start designing the mission devices and homing in on what our vehicle needs to be programed for.

You can find the rules here

Thursday, January 15, 2009

AUV 2009 Design Video

This is the video that was shown to the board of visitors and used for our design presentation. It shows our current design for the 2009 vehicle.

First Meeting of the Semester

The team met for the first time this semester last night. We mostly discussed the progress we have made on the frame, which should be complete by next week, and the layout of the electronics inside the pelican case.

After being plauged by errors while trying to get last year's vehicle up and running Cusch discovered that the computer is fine but believes the problem is in the thrusters' power board. This is good news and means that we should be able to start using the computer to work on code.

The link included with this post is one that was forward to me by Cush on a quality underwater camera. Because of budget and our current design we will be using last year's cameras but might upgrade before the competition if the funding comes through.
Sea Viewer