16 Nov

Robot Swarms 'Talk' Underwater

At S[&]T we were excited to see the SWARMs (Smart and networking underWAter Robots in cooperation Meshes) project featured in the fall edition of TNO Time! The article is in Dutch, and explains 'How you can let robots talk underwater'. I've interviewed S[&]T'er Joost Geelhoed to get the inside scoop on these robotic networks.

What is SWARMs exactly?
"SWARMs kicked off this summer at the Universidad Politécnica de Madrid, and is an ECSEL JU project involving 30 European companies and universities. We are building a platform for underwater operations based on autonomous underwater vehicles (UAVs). These robots can be equipped with a variety of sensors and actuators, communicating with each other and with a ship or the shore via a surface vehicle or remotely operated vehicle (ROV). "

What makes SWARMs exciting?
"By enabling the robots to talk to eachother as well as ship and shore, we're creating the ability to collaborate at a system level underwater in real time. The concept of robots working together has been around for a while, but traditional methods of communication, like wifi, are difficult to implement underwater. The accoustic signal network being developed in this project is a significant step forward in Technology Readiness Level." 

What is S[&]T's role?
"S[&]T is involved in the Communication and Networking work package of the overall project. We work on the design and implementation of the protocols and interfaces required for communication between the user space and radio and for networking. Our specialisation in sensor systems in harsh environments puts us in a unique position to create this communications network."

Who are you working with?
"The consortium is huge, but TNO (Acoustics and Sonar) and Boskalis are main contacts for the projects. S[&]T was brought into the project by TNO, with whom we often partner for similar applications. S[&]T also noticed that there was no end-user among all 30 partners involved, and has brought in Boskalis as subcontractor for the project. As end-users, they help us define scenarios and evaluate the system from an implementation perspective.  At S[&]T Marius Wulffers is the external coordinator, and Martijn de Milliano is my project manager." 

If you have any questions about this project, let me know, and I'll ask Joost if he knows the answer! For more information, see this quarter's publication of TNO Time magazine: https://www.tno.nl/nl/over-tno/meer-over-ons-werk/tnotime/