CAREER: Autonomous Underwater Power Distribution System for Continuous Operation

National Science Foundation

Success of numerous long-term robotic network missions in space, air, ground, and water is measured by the ability of the robots to operate for extended time in highly dynamic and potentially hazardous operating environments. The proposed work responds to the urgency for development of innovative mobile power distribution systems that lower deployment and operating costs, while simultaneously increasing mission efficiency, and supporting the network’s need to be responsive to changing physical conditions. The overall CAREER goal is to develop a power distribution system that responds to individual robot needs, as well as, overall robotic network goals to guarantee persistence of long-term operation in uncertain and unstructured environments.

The proposed work is informed by the hypothesis that network persistence hinges on the ability to establish stable energy transfer cycles necessary to accomplish coverage specifications, while simultaneously dealing with physical and environmental constraints. To test this hypothesis and as an example of such a system, this work will focus on creating a reliable autonomous recharging system for autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs) that enables continuous real-time marine observation and data collection in the presence of continuously changing underwater environmental circumstances. The key challenges are two-fold: there are fundamental hardware challenges connected to energy transfer in the harsh underwater environment, but more importantly there are basic network science needs that are novel to a mobile power network. The specific research thrusts for this CAREER work include: 1) Task and Energy Routing Scheduling for Persistent Mission Planning. 2) Efficient Network Path Planning and Coordination to Accomplish Persistent Mission Plan. 3) Experimental Validation through Test-bed Development. 4) Design-based, Research-integrated Education Plan for Broadening Underrepresented Participation in STEM.

Intellectual Merit:
This project builds a roadmap to achieve robust continuous marine autonomy that advances unmanned marine systems ability to perform autonomous long-term missions. More specifically the proposed work will provide: 1) resource based task scheduling, 2) path planning formation for mission and charging, and 3) integration tools for testing. Expected outcomes will overcome the current challenge of significant interruptions during underwater missions due to battery limitations and recharging needs. Through this CAREER proposal, the Pl will establish the theoretical, computational, and experimental foundation for mobile power delivery and onsite recharging capability for autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs). The developed power distribution system will be able to reconfigure itself depending on the scope of the mission, as well as, the energy consumption needs of the network, the number of operational AUVs and required operation time, recharging specifications, communication and localization means, and environmental variables.

Such a system will play a vital role in real-time controlled applications across multiple disciplines, such as: sensor networks, robotics, and transportation systems where limited power resources and unknown environmental dynamics pose major constraints. All developed tools will be suited for the capabilities of not only low-cost AUVs with limited sensing and computational resources, but also high-tech AUVs with state of the art sensor packages.

Broader Impacts:
The developed active power distribution system focuses on underwater scenarios, but will be transferrable to space, air, and ground missions as well. This type of feasible power distribution solution can be used to optimize: 1) immediate high-risk disaster recovery missions like the Fukushima nuclear plant accident; 2) search missions that require vast underwater inspection and detection like the Malaysia MH370 passenger aircraft; and 3) long-term space observation and monitoring like that of the lunar skylight or Europa space mission. The findings from this project will be disseminated through publications, software sharing, and technology commercialization. The project provides interdisciplinary training opportunities for graduate, undergraduate, and pre-college students, including those from underrepresented groups. Research activities will be integrated with education through curriculum development, outreach and improved GUPPIE design.

Investigator: Nina Mahmoudian

NRI: Co-Robots to Engage Next Generation of Students in STEM Learning

National Science Foundation

Correctly, the 2009 Roadmap for US Robotics report predicted that robotics technology would transform the future of the US workforce and households. From Roomba vacuum cleaners to Wii video games, we increasingly see robotic technology in work spaces and homes. Yet, the US continues to lag behind China, South Korea, Japan, and European Union in its investment in robotics research and education. The Next Generation Science Standards for Today’s Students and Tomorrow’s Workforce responds to this critical need by providing a curricular framework for using crosscutting concepts and disciplinary ideas that: have broad importance across science and engineering disciplines; are taught around a key organizing concept (like health or water) and use key tool (pedagogical platform); have a significant context for students and are explicitly connected to societal needs; and are teachable and learnable over multiple grades. Informed by this framework, our proposed NRI aims to develop, test, and assess two co-robotic platforms with high impact potential and longevity as a pedagogical platform (use is applicable from 4th grade through graduate school learning). Two unique robotics educational platforms will be used to teach 6th-8th grade: an educational underwater glider called GUPPIE and a surface electromyography (sEMG)- controlled manipulator called Neu-pulator. Both of these platforms can be categorized as co-robot and cost less than $1000. GUPPIE is an unmanned vehicle that has application in monitoring and inspection of the environment and can be used to introduce students to the application of robots as co-explorers in everyday life. Neu-pulator is a human-interactive robot that uses electrical activity of human muscles to move a manipulator. It introduces students to assistive robots, which are a class of co-robots that aim to amplify or compensate for human capabilities. We hypothesize that meaningful contexts and hands-on learning with co-robotic platforms will broaden impact to diverse audiences and increase interest in critical STEM areas. The overall goal of the proposed NRI is to develop and evaluate the use of co-robotic platforms in learning contexts that are socially meaningful, especially for underrepresented students (female students from rural, low socioeconomic areas in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan). Our specific objectives are to: 1) Optimize Michigan Tech’s co-robotic platform designs for teaching STEM concepts. 2) Develop educational activities/curriculum utilizing Michigan Tech’s co-robotic platforms. 3) Investigate the co-robotic platforms effectiveness in engaging students in STEM learning.

Intellectual Merit:
The proposed work will develop a pedagogical platform and evaluation method that can be easily translated for classroom practice from grades 4th-12th and in undergraduate to graduate degree programs. Training teachers in platform use during teacher workshops will help schools respond to and integrate new science standards – efficiently and effectively using meaningful contexts. Continued online training and modules will be available to broadly disseminate platform applications for informal and formal learning contexts. The hardware development and programming of co-robots will teach critical analytical thinking. The nature of co-robotic platforms, on the other hand, will inspire students to become integrative designers. By exercising both analytical thinking and design skills, these co-robotic platforms will improve students’ ability for creative problem solving, and ultimately increase individual motivation for pursuing STEM academic and career pathways. The project will produce research that compares the effectiveness of mission-based and application-based robotics activities for engaging students in STEM.

Investigators: Nina Mahmoudian and Mo Rastgaar

Collaborative Research: On Making Wave Energy an Economical and Reliable Power Source for Ocean Measurement Applications

National Science Foundation

Work Plan:
Task 1: Wave-by-wave control and Multi-resonant control
(a-i) Wave-by-Wave Control: Generalize to conversion from relative oscillation in surge, heave, and pitch modes. This step places high expectations on geometry design, because the chosen geometry needs to maximize wave radiation (radiation damping) by relative oscillation in all three modes. Typically, for small axi-symmetric buoys, radiation damping in surge and pitch modes is considerably smaller than that in heave mode. Therefore, greater oscillation excursions are typically required for optimal conversion in these modes. In addition, the power requirements of the wave measurement hardware also need to be included in the daily/annual powver calculations. For the X-band Radar hardware applicable to the up-wave distances of interest to us (on the order of 1000 m), the power consumption is expected to be less than 300 W (average). This could pose a challenge in some wave conditions, but it is likely that the use of multiple modes and optimized geometries will help to provide sufficient usable power for the iFCB application we are pursuing in this work. We plan to extend the current simulations to address these needs.
(a-ii) Geometry Design: New geometry design/utilization approaches to maximize the radiation damping for the 3 relative oscillation modes are being considered. These will be evaluated through detailed simulations in the forthcoming period.
(b) Multi-resonant Control: Current implementations need to be extended to incorporate realistic oscillation constraints. Further extensions to 2-body systems with power capture from relative oscillation are also required, and are planned for the forthcoming period. Finally, the procedure also needs to be extended to investigate multiple-mode conversion (i.e. relative heave, pitch, and surge oscillations).
Task 2: Actuator Design and Energy Storage
Work is planned for the forthcoming period where propose to examine favorably interacting buoy-instrument cage geometries that will minimize the need for large amounts of reactive power to flow through the system. Particular attention will be given to hydrodynamic and mechanical coupling effects and ways to provide negative stiffness through geometry design.
In addition, non-polluting high-lubricity hydraulic fluids will be evaluated through actuator dynamic models over the frequency range of interest.
Task 3: Simulation of Complete System and Wave Tank Testing
This is an important part of the project. The complete system will be simulated following inclusion of multiple-mode relative oscillation conversion and more detailed actuator design. Besides the power requirements of the wave measurement system, all other non-function-critical power needs embedded within the overall system (on-board electronics, etc.) will be included in this simulation.
Wave tank tests are planned as part of this project. Preparations are currently underway to install a wave tank (with flap type absorbing wave makers) capable of providing accurate and repeatable sea states for this project. 1/2 or 1/5 scale models are planned.

Investigator: Umesh Korde

Hydrodynamic Control Using X-Band Radar for Wave Energy Converter Technology

U.S. Dept of Defense, Naval Facilities Engineering Command

The current approach for designing wave energy converters is to use a floating-body tuned to the wave climate, which results in a very large device that is expensive to build, service and deploy. Additionally, because the device is designed to be tuned to a specific climate, it will not work effectively in a different location ·with a different climate. Therefore, the current approach for designing wave energy converters is not conducive to long-term economic application.

Economically significant size reduction and year-round power increases are only possible through operation near theoretical efficiency limits in constantly changing wave conditions, which requires active hydrodynamic control. However, the wave-by-wave control necessary for best conversion is not possible without wave-elevation information up to some duration into the future (this in large part is because of the force due to the waves generated by body oscillation in response to the incident wave field). By incorporating wave-elevation prediction based on a deterministic propagation model that accounts for a realistic range of wave-group velocities in conjunction with wave measurements in the up-wave directions, we have been able to confirm, through simulations, a 10-fold increase in power conversion under a swept-volume oscillation constraint for an omni-directional heaving buoy type device.
Availability of instantaneous wave profile (“wave surface elevation” or “wave elevation”) measurements and wave surface elevation predictions is important to the success of the control approach being pursued in this work. Equally important is the near-optimal wave-by-wave control approach itself.

Proposed research:
1. A method for obtaining instantaneous wave surface elevation information on a wave-by wave basis using a low-cost X-band Radar (the state of the art, as represented by the commercially available WaMOS system is optimized to provide spectral information.
2. A method for providing constrained near-optimal wave-by-wave control for maximizing the energy conversion by small wave energy converters.
3. Although the focus of the proposed research is wave energy converter technology, the results of this work are expected to find application in other forthcoming Navy developments. Wave-by-wave surface elevation prediction and near-optimal power absorption techniques demonstrated in this effort can be extended to facilitate critical mid-sea shipboard operations such as helicopter/ aircraft landing, cargo handling, etc. The techniques demonstrated as part of this research will also provide technology to enhance and optimize seakeeping characteristics of Navy ocean platforms.

Investigator: Umesh Korde

Making Small Wave Energy Converters Cost-Effective for Underwater Microgrids through a 10-Fold Improvement in Year-Round Productivity

South Dakota School of Mines and Technology


Proposed Work
Drivetrain and Actuator
1- Conceptual Design of actuators with large stroke and large rated force.
2- Conceptual Design of a high efficient drivetrain and energy storage for low frequency oscillatory systems (WECs)
3- Evaluate several technologies (electrical, mechanical, and hydraulic) for the design of the actuator and powertrain, with the requirement of limiting the overall cost.

Investigators: Ossama Abdelkhalik and Mark Vaughn

Autonomous Microgrids: Theory, Control, Flexibility and Scalability

U.S. Dept of Defense Office of Naval Research

Project Description and Research Objectives:
From large scale electric power grids and microgrids down to small scale electronics, power networks are typically deployed using a fixed infrastructure architecture that cannot expand or contract without significant human intervention. Mobile, monolithic power systems exist but are also not readily scalable to exploit surrounding power sources and storage devices. However, if a power network is constructed from physically independent and autonomous building blocks, then it would be infinitely reconfigurable and adaptable to changing needs and environments. The aim of this project is to integrate vehicle robotics with intelligent power electronics to create self-organizing, ad-hoc, hybrid AC/DC microgrids. The main benefits of this system would be the establishment and operation of an electrical power networks independent of human interaction and can adapt to changing environments, resource and mission. In the context of U.S. Naval platforms, this autonomous electrical network could be used in land, air or sea systems.

The focus of this work will be on land based autonomous microgrid systems, but the fundamental theory developed may be applicable to air and sea based systems as well. Investigators at Michigan Technological University have developed initial hardware and testbeds to study this problem. However, a more detailed theoretical foundation is needed to be developed to apply autonomous microgrids to a wide variety of operational scenarios with various resources. It is also hypothesized that given the flexibility of this approach that it could be equally applied over a vast scale of energy assets. A microgrid that grows in situ from 10 s to 100 s to 1000 s of energy assets can be equally managed, controlled and optimized through the highly scalable approach proposed in this project.

These applications are examples of the critical need for autonomous mobile microgrid capable of operating in highly dynamic and potentially hazardous environments. Our overall goal is to create a scalable architecture to develop a system that accounts for uncertainty in predictions and disturbances, is redundant, requires minimal communication between agents, provides real-time guarantees on the performance of path planning, and reaches the targets while making electrical connections. Such architecture provide a coherent layout for the interconnection between different disciplines on this topic and minimizes the integration concerns for future developments.

Description of the Proposed Work:
• Microgrid Planning and Control
• Microgrid Topology and Optimization
• Electrical Components and Power Flow
• Game-Theoretic Control
• Physical Autonomous Positioning and Connections

Investigator: Wayne Weaver, Rush Robinett and Nina Mahmoudian

On Integrating New Capability into Coastal Energy Conversion Systems

National Science Foundation -South Dakota School of Mines & Technology

Analyze and simulate the power capture from arrays of wave energy converters (WECs) with and without the presence of an object. Nonlinear WECs will be analyzed and exploited for more energy capture. For object detection, MTU will develop an estimator. In addition to having a model that detects the presence of an object, the estimator will use that model and account for uncertainties that we have in the model and also measurement errors; in any case we need to know statistical characteristics about these uncertainties and errors. MTU will participate in the WEC array overall design, analysis, modeling and simulations; control design for Design 2, nonlinear modeling and control, and topology optimization.

Investigator: Ossama Abdelkhalik and Mark Vaughn

Umesh Korde

Umesh Korde has been active in the area of ocean wave energy utilization since 1982. He has worked on several aspects of the problem, though his research over the last three decades has primarily been concerned with the dynamics, control, and hydrodynamics of oscillating bodies and pressure distributions performing as the primary working element of a wave energy converter. Of particular interest in the last few years have been small devices capable of integration into measurement and sensing systems in the ocean, as well as shore and ocean based microgrids serving a variety of applications. A focal area of his current research has been new techniques for modeling and control, including novel ways to utilize existing approaches.

Dr. Korde has also worked on the dynamics and control of flexible bodies including lightweight membranes, for space applications such as steering and shaping of laser beams, tunable passive damping of lightweight structures, and self-healing of structures using focused stress waves. Dr. Korde serves as an associate editor for the journal J Ocean Engineering and Marine Energy (Springer), and is a Fellow of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers.

Research Specialties

  • Dynamics and control: floating body hydrodynamics, hydrodynamic modeling of buoys, cables;
  • Modeling and control of flexible and smart structures;
  • Wave energy converters, near-optimal control in the time domain;
  • Adaptive and nonlinear control of floating bodies;
  • Low-dissipation actuator and mechanism development, development of new detection and sensing modalities;
  • Deterministic wave prediction;
  • Control of ship-board systems
  • Wave powered microgrids
  • Wave Energy Conversion (WECs)

    WECS are devices with moving elements that are directly activated by the cyclic oscillation of the waves for Ocean wave energy utilization and energy harvesting. Power is extracted by converting the kinetic energy of these displacing parts into electric current; dynamics, control, and hydrodynamics of oscillating bodies and pressure distributions performing as the primary working element of a wave energy converter. Specific recent research has been on small devices capable of integration into measurement and sensing systems in the ocean, as well as shore and ocean based microgrids serving a variety of applications. A focal area of this current research has been new techniques for modeling and control, including novel ways to utilize existing approaches.