Underwater Robotics: Manipulation and Sensing for Marine Biology and Underwater Archaeology

Seminar | July 25 | 1:30-2:30 p.m. | 3110 Etcheverry Hall

 Associate Professor Vincent Creuze, LIRMM, University of Montpellier, CNRS, Montpellier, France

 Department of Mechanical Engineering (ME)

Of the two million shipwrecks that dot the seas of the world, many lie beyond scuba diving limits. These deep-water wrecks are remarkably well preserved because, until now, they have been protected from the main environmental and human threats (biofouling, shipworms, light, storms, strong tidal currents, looting, etc.). Nowadays, they are no longer safe due to deep fishing trawls and looting by deep-water treasure hunting companies, operating in violation of 2001 UNESCO Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage. There is an urgent need to study these sites before they are destroyed. Unfortunately, the manipulator arms and tools of existing ‘Work Class’ ROVs (Remotely Operated Vehicles) are designed for industrial infrastructure tasks and do not allow for safe excavation or recovery of fragile archaeological artifacts without damage.

Several years ago, a consortium led by the French Department for Underwater Archaeological Research (DRASSM, Ministry of Culture), which brought together several universities and industrial partners, began to develop original robotic approaches to perform effective archaeological studies and collect artifacts from depths ranging from 50 to 2,000 meters. This talk will describe the tools and methods we developed, in the context of deep-water archaeological intervention, focusing on the shared control of very small multipurpose underwater vehicles. This includes underwater grasping devices (robotic hands, claws, and suction devices), robust control, coordination of robots, haptic feedback and vision based methods for underwater localization and 3D modelling. Outcomes are demonstrated via several videos showing field tests carried out during real archaeological campaigns from 50 meters to more than 1,000 meters. These technologies are additionally applied to other marine tasks, such as carefully collecting seashells for biological studies.




 hstuart@berkeley.edu, 510-643-9786