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Computer science professors create laser light system to detect robots underwater

The manufacture of “Sunflower” – laser light systems – offers an alternative technology to traditional sound signal systems. This is the first time an airborne drone has been used to track robots underwater.

by Adriana James-Rodil | 5 minutes later


Source: Courtesy of Charles Carver GR ’22

Computer science professors Xia Zhou and Alberto Quattrini Li, along with researchers from HealthX and Reality and Robotics Labs, have created an alternative system that detects underwater robots. The system, called Sunflower, uses a drone to emit laser light over the water and track the robots. On June 28, the researchers presented their findings at the 20th annual International Conference on Mobile Systems, Applications and Services.

According to Zhou, what sets the Sunflower apart from other underwater detection systems is that it uses light technology instead of acoustic signals, making it the first airborne drone to do so.

“We don’t know of other systems that can do 3D localization of water robots from the air – at least there’s no real demonstration we’ve seen before,” Zhou said.

Zhou said he and other researchers chose to use light because they believed it was a “better medium for communication and feeling because of the physical properties of light.” He said not only can light travel farther than sound, but it also has a higher “communication bandwidth” than sound. Once they decided to use a drone, the researchers considered light to be the only medium for effective water travel, leading to its use for communication and sensing, he said.

Charles Carver GR ’22, a co-author of the paper that discusses the researchers ’findings, says Sunflower can help people explore unknown regions of the ocean and work to combat climate change.

“Climate change is an important factor, especially when it comes to underwater,” he said. “You can study reefs and other underwater ecosystems with better granularity [and] know where they relate to other ecosystems, and be able to reflect on the effects of climate change.

In a written statement to The Dartmouth, Carver also explained that the Sunflower operates in two main parts – the queen, the aerial drone, and a worker, the underwater robot. The queen has a laser beam that helps transmit information.

“The queen was driving its laser beam at the air -water boundary, hit by the worker – who noticed the angle of the laser incident – [and] The retro shows the light back to the queen and encodes this information at an angle, ”he wrote.

Carver writes that the drone, or queen, then detects faint retro reflections of light and converts them into digital signals by decoding data received from the worker, or the underwater robot. He also writes that he designed and built the optical circuits and hardware for the queen, in addition to the algorithm that manages the queen’s “angle of arrival” developed by Qijia Shao, another author of the paper that received master’s degree from its College. year.

Everything is involved in the design which includes “integrating the entire system and computing the final location [of the robot]”Said Carver.

Zhou explained that Sunflower’s inspiration came from Li’s previous work as an underwater roboticist. He added that Li focused on programming underwater robots for a variety of tasks and understood the challenges of robot-to-system communication.

“It was a challenge I learned [Li] is the difficulty of communicating with robots and also knowing where they are, “Zhou said.” The mainstream approach today is mostly based on acoustics … but we were thinking of doing something different. “

Li said that before Sunflower was developed, he and Zhou collaborated on a project called Amphilight that allowed communication between the aerial drone and laser light beam, of which Carver was also a lead author. Li said they have expanded their Amphi Light project to produce Sunflower, which uses laser light for localization purposes.

“Ang [previous] The paper shows that you can do wireless communication using laser light, ”Carver said. “And this role [‘Sunflower: Locating Underwater Robots From the Air’] is the immediate follow-up. ”

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