Title page for ETD etd-07052011-133220

Type of Document Master's Thesis
Author Smith, Daniel Davis
Author's Email Address dsmi112@tigers.lsu.edu
URN etd-07052011-133220
Title Design, Development, and Testing of a Multi-agent Autonomous Surface Fleet for Environmental Applications
Degree Master of Science in Biological & Agricultural Engineering (M.S.B.A.E.)
Department Biological & Agricultural Engineering
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Hall, Steven G. Committee Chair
Bengtson, Richard L Committee Member
Wandersee, James H Committee Member
  • water quality
  • automation
  • autonomous vehicle
  • aquacultural engineering
  • aquaculture
Date of Defense 2011-05-19
Availability unrestricted
As costs have decreased and both computational complexity and robustness have increased, the use of autonomous vehicles in real-world environments has increased dramatically. The development of a fleet of autonomous surface vehicles able to coordinate their actions through communications provides a significant tool for numerous water-based applications such as the reduction of predatory birds on aquaculture ponds, tracking of pollutant gradients, and water quality mapping applications.

A fleet of three autonomous surface vehicles (ASVs) was developed using the best characteristics from earlier designs. Each vehicle is a dual-pontoon, dual-paddlewheel design powered by batteries recharged using a vehicle-mounted solar array that produces a peak output of 30 Watts. The control system consists of two microcontrollers: a TS-7260 ARM-based microcontroller board that handles high-level functions such as navigation, the collection, storage, and analysis of data, and communication; and a BASIC Atom Pro that handles motor control.

A major design goal was modularity. This allows for quick and easy field repairs and upgrades. Communication is essential for fleet success. The dual-microcontroller system in these ASVs has two levels of communication. Intra-ASV communications are handled via serial connections between the ARM and the BASIC Atom Pro on each ASV, whereas inter-ASV communications use XBee Radio Modules with an approximate range of 300 meters. Through the use of relaying, we have an effective range of 600 meters across the fleet of three ASVs. Longer-ranges are possible with other radios. It is desirable to know at all times where the ASV is both with respect to the other ASVs in the fleet and to the data being collected. By collecting and storing GPS coordinates on a regular basis and especially when a sample is taken, we have the ability to map the data being collected. Maps were constructed demonstrating the potential 50-80% reduction in birds.

The development of the fleet of ASVs provides a novel, inexpensive, highly configurable, mobile platform for experimentation. Future research possibilities exist of significant importance including: gradient tracking of pollutants for both point source and non-point source pollutants; coastal applications including salinity mapping and bathymetry mapping; ecosystem monitoring; biosecurity applications; and others.

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