Battling Drug Subs with Boogie Boards

Battling Drug Subs with Boogie Boards

The way this project began is we went to the
Navy and asked them what their research challenges were. The Navy had a need to protect our coastlines
from drug subs. What is a drug sub? It’s a very small submarine, has a single twin
Diesel engines, can go approximately 2,000 miles. They’re very, very difficult to
detect. You can’t see them from the sky. You can’t see them from satellite images.
About the the only way that people have been able to detect them is from the underwater sound they create. What’s in there? Acoustic detection software! What is is? Acoustic detection software, finding
things underwater. Oh! Our solution has been to create large numbers of acoustic sensing vehicles that can detect
these drug subs. And we quickly realized that if we were going to make large numbers of
these that we can spend a lot of time in the lab sculpting foam and connecting things to
foam, that we needed to get commercial parts. So the base of our boat is a boogie board. When I started working this summer they had
two boats. So my first step was physically manufacturing four other boats. The main platform
is a boogie board and then two sub pumps for propulsion, a hose from the sub pump to a
nozzle, and then a bracket on the front and the back to hold the sub pump and the hose. And on top of this boogie board we have an air-tight first-aid box that contains all
of our equipment. So, let’92s see. I actually have never even just put everything in here.
I don’t even know that it’s going to fit. And that includes our two single-board
computers, our acoustic data gathering equipment, the batteries that we need to power this boat.
So getting all the equipment to fit in is quite a packing challenge. Done! So here’s our vision: What we envision
is a collection of our boats aligned along the coastline, listening. We’re actually
going to take the acoustic signals being gathered by our instruments and use those to control
the swarm. On each one of our boats we have a hydrophone attached to it and it matches that hydrophone
data with a GPS point. It needs to be able to analyze the data that it’s receiving from the hydrophone and
tell the other boats and itself to go there. What we’ve done with our particular fleet
of boats is try to mimic the kinds of scenarios that the Navy faces in a realistic environment
without paying millions of dollars for an at-sea experiment. Okay, so I have the first one as 42.317. Hold
on one sec. So we’re testing right now hard-coded waypoints but the boat is driving
autonomously to those waypoints. It’s going to make a triangle. It’s going to go out
and horizontally across the pond and then come back. So that’s this test that we’re
doing right now. The field tests for these boats are intensely challenging. We have a lot of components that
all have to work together perfectly for a boat to move and take its data, and then on
top of that we have an awful lot of software that has to work perfectly A student conducting
a field test with these boats has a list of about 100 things to worry about. Alright, turning it to auto mode. Okay! So
that’s what we were seeing last time, and let’s just see if it keeps that. So yeah
it does a circle – Yeah sometimes it. Woah, woah. See it does? It’s coming here. It’s
– something’s going on. What is this waypoint that it’s trying to go to? And badly. We
need to change the parameter. It wasn’t doing that before. We’ll try the old parameters. I love building things and I think that you need an application, you need a driving force
for the code that you write. One of the exciting things, I think, for students working on this project is it’s not a paper
study. We build real things. We do mathematical research on them and develop algorithms on
them and so forth. But at the end of the day we go out and we put these things in water
and we see what they do. So we’re going to set a waypoint on this boat and put it in the water and see if it
will go to that waypoint. Yup, here we go. So we saw it turn, right, turn towards that
direction. Smooth arc. Yup, and now it’s just heading that way. Looks great. So I think
it’s working. Yup. Yeah? It’s perfect. Alright! Part of the reason why we’ve been so motivated
this summer is because it’s such a meaningful project. Working on this project for the Navy, trying
to get acoustic detection software to work to tell this swarm of boats where to go it’s
cool! And, like, I want to get up in the morning and go do it.

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About the Author: Oren Garnes

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