MORPH
Marine robotic system of self-organizing, logically linked physical nodes

ABSTRACT

The MORPH project proposes a novel concept of an underwater robotic system that emerges out of integrating, albeit in a non-physical manner, different mobile robot-modules with distinct and complementary resources. It will provide efficient methods to map the underwater environment with great accuracy in situations that defy existing technology: namely underwater surveys over rugged terrain and structures with full 3D complexity, including walls with a negative slope. Its applications cover a wide range of scientific and commercial areas such as monitoring of cold water coral reefs, oil and gas pipeline inspection, harbor and dam protection.

PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR
MASSIMO CACCIA

DATA SHEET

   TYPE AND DATE
   FP7 / CP
   STARTING DATE – Feb 1, 2012
   ENDING DATE – Jan 31, 2016

COST
TOTAL COST € 8,521,744.00
TOTAL FUNDING € 6,284,371.00

CNR ISSIA
COST € 526,987.00
FUNDING € 398,040.00

SAMPLE MORPH MISSION

 

DIVE

The morph supra-vehicle dives and try to detect the sea bottom. During descent global navigation is provided by the surface node

 

MORPHING

Once located, the geometrical configuration of the MORPH evolves from the diving to the bottom survey configuration.

 

BOTTOM SURVEY

The MORPH surveys the seafloor and tries to detect areas of interest, here a vertical cliff.

 

CLIFF Detection

The MORPH detects the vertical cliff.

 

MORPHING II

The geometrical configuration of the MORPH evolves from the bottom-survey to the vertical survey configuration.

 

CLIFF SURVEY

The MORPH surveys the cliff using the central node as watchdog while two camera vehicles map the cliff in high definition quality.

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SUMMARY

The MORPH supra-vehicle (MSV) is in sharp contrasts to classical monolithic vehicles or even cooperative groups of marine vehicles that, operating safely away from each other, lack the capability of supporting multi-sensor interaction in close vicinity of the terrain. Without rigid links, with its modules physically separated from each other, the MSV can reconfigure itself and adapt in response to the terrain shape. This allows new applications where multiple instruments must be operated and geo-referenced very close to the underwater terrain even under severely adverse conditions, e.g. close to negative slope walls, where precise localization of a single vehicle is not possible. Inter-module interactions are allowed by underwater acoustic communication networks at far and close ranges and vision at very close range.

The MORPH concept supports qualitatively new behaviors such as adaptive sensor placement for perception and navigation, as well as environmental modeling in complex, uncertain environments. It will lead to a solution well beyond the operational state of the art for underwater cliff surveys and other similar
missions with far reaching scientific and commercial applications. A demonstration on a vertical cliff, unfeasible automatically with today’s technology, will validate the efficacy of the methods developed.

 

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Courtesy France Télévisions

MORPH Specific Objectives

  1.  A variety of morph nodes will be created by modifying pre-existing underwater robots, according to the needs. They will be made available for development, evaluation and demonstration throughout the project. It will be shown that the morph concept is feasible and applicable to marine science.
  2.  A planning tool will be created which comprise methods to initiate a goal oriented mission of the morph system. It must be understandable by all pre-existing vehicles. It will also contain software for mission monitoring and evaluation. 
  3. A generic control architecture will be created and installed into the nodes so that they are able to perform the morphing as required by the environment. It needs to analyse the environmental- and perception-data presented and perform an adaptation to the seafloor. This includes view planning, local path- and motion planning, and collision avoidance. 
  4. A system to perceive the environment and the different nodes of the morph vehicle will be achieved. For environmental data this comprises sonar and video data processing and mosaicing. The will be a coarse-level-mapping which is used for navigation and online planning in the control architecture. On a different level there will be detailed high resolution mapping and sensor fusion to fulfill the needs of the end user. 
  5. A communication system will be established which allows the exchange of data as necessary. An acoustic system provides communication over long range but at limited bandwidth. It will be complemented by techniques of short range underwater radio communication. An intermodal network will be created which also includes an aerial radio link. 
  6. Validation and demonstration of the results in a challenging real life environment.

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SEE ALL FIELD AND INTERACTION ROBOTICS PROJECTS

SOURCE OF FOUNDING

PARTNERSHIP

ATLAS ELEKTRONIK GmbH, Germany
National Research Council  – Institute of Intelligent Systems for Automation, Italy
Institut français de recherche pourl’exploitation de la mer Ifremer, France
Instituto Superior Tecnico (IST), Portugal
Jacobs University, Germany
Technical University Ilmenau, Germany
NATO Centre for Maritime Research and Experimentation (CMRE), Italy
Universitat de Girona, Spain
IMAR – Institute of Marine Research, Portugal