Autonomous vehicles are increasingly investigated for use in oceanographic studies, underwater surveillance, and search operations. Research currently being done in the area of autonomous underwater craft is often hindered by expense. This project seeks to complete the construction, optimization, and control software development of an inexpensive underwater vehicle. During the course of the project all of the vehicle’s mechanical and electrical subsystems were completed. Propeller-driven primary thrusters using a magnetically coupled drive system were optimized and manufactured. A battery powered electrical subsystem was also designed and installed on the vehicle. A simulation of the vehicle’s control algorithm was developed in MATLAB and several full vehicle tests were conducted.

The submarine’s various electronic systems and subsystems must function together to monitor and control all aspects of the vehicle’s operation. The primary electronics systems on the submarine include the Central Processing Unit (CPU), Sub-Hub interface, Sensors, and Actuators. These systems must work cohesively to provide control of the mechanical components of the vehicle.

A full vehicle motion simulation was written in MATLAB (Refer to Appendix A in PDF Report: MATLAB Code). This simulation program must later be integrated into a language that the PC/104 system can understand. The primary objective of the Central Processing system (and Electronics systems as a whole) in relation to the goals of the project is to guide the craft to an objectified position efficiently and safely. The device chosen to handle future high-level computational operations is a PC/104 Computer Stack. The stack is a fully functional computer comprised of 3 modular boards connected in a stacked multi-level configuration.

Autonomous Underwater Vehicle Control Algorithms – A means of controlling an AUV’s motion within the water must be handled by a control algorithm programmed and run on the CPU. The concept of an AUV control algorithm is nearly identical to those found in manned and unmanned aircraft control systems, the most notable difference being the medium through which the vehicles move. A control algorithm must account for the AUV’s motions and dynamics while moving through a fluid in 3 dimensions. The program should take environmental inputs from the sensor system and output necessary commands to the vehicle’s motion controlling components (pitch, roll, yaw, thrust).

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