ECE: Electrical & Computer Engineering
ECE News

Playing well with others-autonomously

Print Version

image of article

.pdf Print Version
72 KB

More Information

For more information, visit The Autonomous Systems and Controls Laboratory (ASCL).


Reconnaissance demonstrations of the ASV, Rascal UAV, a platoon of other AUVs, and the unmanned "Rocky" by Virginia Tech and the U.S. Navy Post-graduate school.

Virginia Tech air, surface and ground autonomous vehicles showed their teamwork ability in a reconnaissance demonstration at the U.S. Navy's 2007 AUVFest.


The autonomous surface vehicle (ASV) deployed first, and patrolled on a river through pre-programmed way-points. Because the AUV has limited field-of-view, the "Rascal" unmanned air vehicle (UAV) then flew over the operating area, to look for potential objects of interest. It detected the targeted object, localized it, and sent the coordinates to the ASV, which then changed its route to pass around the object for close-up inspection. At the same time, Tech's unmanned ground vehicle, "Rocky," patrolled the shore and maneuvered to keep the object in its camera's field of view.

The demonstration was a collaboration between Virginia Tech autonomous vehicle researchers and the U.S. Navy Postgraduate School (NPS). "Despite this being our first opportunity for Tech and NPS to operate all systems simultaneously, the demonstration worked perfectly on the first attempt," said ECE's Dan Stillwell, whose team developed the ASV and control algorithms. ECE's Chris Wyatt lead development of machine vision algorithms for the ASV.


In another demonstration, Virginia Tech's high speed autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) demonstrated its high-speed capability. In just 40 seconds, it launched and covered more than 200 meters at about 10 knots.

A platoon of other AUVs, including the VT 475 AUV, demonstrated coordinated motion control and adaptive environmental sampling capabilities. For environmental sampling, an AUV detected and then mapped the outflow of a waste water treatment plant that flows into St. Andrew Bay near Panama City, Fla. The AUV detected and ran through the plume. When the AUV recognized that it had returned to the ambient environment, it turned back on a different trajectory. The AUV repeated the process many times and constructed a map of the plume and estimated center of the plume.