Inference: Autonomous Surface Vehicles

This post features a project I was involved in with Dr Matthew Dunbabin of Queensland University of Technology. The Inference project is a system of robotic boats providing environmental monitoring of large bodies of water. These boats, or more accurately, Autonomous Surface Vehicles (ASVs) have been designed to work as a persistent robotic system providing long term sampling and analysis in real world environments. In the first instance my role was to develop initial concepts to help suggest the possible forms that would answer the brief, with a particular focus on the idea of multiple ASVs working together in docked formations or as solo units.

Over many, many illustrations and renderings the idea of a kind of arched catamaran started to make the most sense. The shape exploits the natural height advantage to allow for the gas sampling mechanism to be deployed through a moon pool opening in the centre of the boat, not unlike a scaled down Diving Support Vessel. The angled sides feature solar panels which form lids for storage compartments containing the computing and battery hardware.

Taking the ideas even further Matt and his team fully developed the design to the point where a prototype was constructed and to help communicate the design to potential suppliers and fabricators I produced a set of turnaround poses and a then a final design rendering depicting the ASVs in action.

Here’s one of the completed ASVs in action on the Little Nerang Dam, Queensland, Australia

This shot shows the catamaran form of the vehicle and you can clearly see the payload, in this case a gas sampling chamber and associated mechanisms. Photo taken at Hinze Dam, Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia

Here we have two of the ASVs working on the Gold Creek Reservoir, near Brisbane, Queensland, Australia. Again you can see the testing payload on the right hand boat, this time with the gas sampling chamber in the raised position.

This video clip is from 7 News Brisbane, and features various QUT robotic projects. The Inference boats are briefly featured at the 1 minute point…

For lots more information, including the full technical details, check out QUT’s Inference Project page