Marsupial robotic system enables environmental monitoring of rivers

RIVERWATCH robotic system

RIVERWATCH is a "marsupial" robotic system comprised of an autonomous surface vehicle (ASV) and an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) which together provides autonomous riverine environmental monitoring.

The project, which began as part of the European Clearing House of Open Robotics Development (ECHORD), pairs the ASV with a piggy-backed multi-rotor UAV for the automatic monitoring of riverine environments from an aerial, surface and underwater view. This coordinated aerial, underwater, and surface level perception will ideally enable the autonomous gathering of robust environmental data. Both of the cooperative robots feature an integrated vision system which enables the robots to "see" and navigate.

The UAV is based on the VBrain from Italian company Virtualrobotix. It features open sourced control software and hardware and a six-rotor configuration for additional lifting capability. Its vision system features a FLIR Quark 336 thermal imaging camera, which is equipped with a 336 x 256 uncooled VOx microbolometer thermal imager with a 17 µm x 17 µm pixel size. The Quark 336 has a 7.5 µm x 13.5 µm spectral band and a high gain scene range of -40°F to 320°F. In addition, the UAV is equipped with a GoPro Hero 3 WiFi camera, and a webcam.

RIVERWATCH’s ASV is based on a 4.5m Nacra catamaran with special carbon fiber reinforcements for the roll bars and motor supports. Its hulls have been filled with special PVC closed cells foam, making it unsinkable. Its vision system is comprised of a number of cameras and sensors, including multiple Ladybug3 cameras from Point Grey. Ladybug3 cameras feature six 1/1.8" Sony ICX274 CCD image sensors with 4.4 µm x 4.4 µm pixel size. The 2 MPixel cameras achieve a frame rate of 15 fps at full 1,600 x 1,200 resolution, and also feature FireWire interface, global shutter, and 8-bit Raw Bayer digital data video output.

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