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Talking underwater robots

International autonomous underwater vehicle symposium hosted by Memorial


By Kathryn Lear

Exploring underneath glaciers and amidst open-ocean eddies is not your standard water cooler talk.

But that’s exactly what will be discussed this week as Memorial hosts the 2020 IEEE Oceanic Engineering Society (IEEE OES) Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV) Symposium for the first time.

Dr. Neil Bose, vice-president (research) and organizing committee chair, says this is the premier event to attend to learn about the latest developments in the field.

Key industries and laboratories from all over the world are registered.

“Attendees can expect interaction between researchers in academia, industry and government in the area of AUV design, development, construction and operations,” he said.

Dr. Neil Bose at Signal Hill Campus in St. John’s.

The biennial international event was scheduled to take place in St. John’s, but due to concerns around COVID-19, the symposium will now be delivered remotely.

The local organizing committee is made up of representatives from Memorial University, the Marine Institute, the National Research Council of Canada and industry. They enlisted the help of the university’s Conference and Event Services unit, which will deliver an innovative conference program.

There are more than 100 registrants and 70 paper presentations from 20 countries. Paper topics include leading edge AUV developments in navigation; design; control; sensor design and data fusion; autonomy; mission planning; applications; multi-vehicle systems and open source robotics.

Opportunities for advancement

Dr. Ting Zou, assistant professor, Department of Mechanical Engineering, Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science at Memorial, is the technical symposium chair.

Dr. Ting Zou is technical symposium chair.
Photo: Submitted

Dr. Zou’s research focuses on the development of robotic technology for multiple areas, including underwater robots like AUVs, soft inspection robots to improve current inspection techniques for complex structures and intelligent robots based on AI methodology that can work independently without human intervention.

“The control of AUV and other underwater vehicles like biologically inspired underwater robots is one of my research focuses,” said Dr. Zou. “I will take this opportunity to investigate the state-of-the-art in AUV control techniques to work in complex underwater environments.”

Gina Millar, research laboratory co-ordinator with the Autonomous Ocean Systems Centre and symposium committee member, has worked in the water robotics industry for more than 15 years.

Ms. Millar says the majority of her time is spent working with the Explorer AUV, a deep-diving AUV rated for a 3,000 metre depth.

“The people I’m working with currently are conducting oil spill research. Some of their biggest challenges right now are their levels of autonomy with the vehicle,” said Ms. Millar. “Basically, we want the vehicle to make higher levels of thought processes and decisions. I think it is something that is important for the industry in general.”

Gina Millar, pictured at front left, is the research laboratory co-ordinator with the Autonomous Ocean Systems Centre and a committee member.

“The AUV world is a small one, so we all have similar problems and it’s nice to get together with other people and do some brainstorming,” she added.

The primary sponsor for the event is Kongsberg Maritime. Richard Mills, vice-president, marine robotics sales at Kongsberg Maritime, says that as an industry leader, they feel it is important to support the research and academic community as they work to identify future challenges.

“We are keen to see new technologies and capabilities, but also how today’s systems are being used in challenging environments. AUV2020 is very much a learning opportunity for us and we look forward to renewing old friendships and making new ones.”

Symposium planning

Jordan Wright, director, Conference and Event Services, says the unit has been happy to help reimagine how the event can be delivered.

He notes the symposium will include a virtual tour of the Holyrood Marine Base, live networking sessions, virtual sponsor exhibits and social programming.

“This symposium has provided an important opportunity for our unit in supporting both the academy and community and I encourage other groups to contact us if they would like help in planning their events,” he said.

The IEEE OES AUV2020 conference runs Sept. 30-Oct. 3. For more information visit the symposium website. For more information on Memorial’s conference and event services, visit here.

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