The Laboratory owns and operates two state-of-the-art Bluefin'21 autonomous underwater vehicles (AUV), and a fleet of four autonomous surface craft (ASC), as well as support equipment for their operation, including an acoustic communication bouy, and a Sonadyne long baseline navigation system. The laboratory is operating the AUV and ASC from research vessels, and have been deployed and operated on average once a year during major field experiments. Through joint research agreements with the NATO Undersea Research Centre (NURC) in La Spezia, Italy, the Laboratory has regular access to their two research vessels, and their engineering research staff. The Laboratory operates several payloads for the AUV, including three acoustic sensing payloads for oceanographic mapping, bottom and sub-bottom object detection. The most recent payload addition is a 32-element towed hydrophone array, purchased under an ONR DURIP grant. It is used extensively for development of autonomous behaviors for environmentally adaptive underwater acoustic sensing for undersea surveillance and environmental monitoring, and for underwater acoustic research in general.
CRATE: Charles River Autonomy Test-bed Environment
Through an agreement with the MIT Sailing Pavilion the Laboratory has established a test-bed for the autonomous surface craft on the Charles River, adjacent to MIT. This Charles River ASC Test-bed is used for smaller scale testing of new adaptive and collaborative sensing concepts. As such it provides a useful intermediate link between the simulation environment and ocean field experiments. The test-bed is used routinely for development and testing of collaborative and adaptive, autonomous control of up to ten ASC using the MOOS-IvP control architecture.
The laboratory operates a cluster of ten workstations, in addition to a large number of laptop computers used for the field efforts. Most of the computers are operated using the Linux operating system, with the laptops in general having a dual-boot capability in Windows. The computer network includes a central SVN (Subversion) server for version control and distribution of software developed and maintained by the the laboratory, such as the open-source MOOS-IvP autonomous platform control software applied exclusively for all the robotic platforms in the Laboratory. LAMSS also maintains a comprehensive suite of state-of-the-art underwater acoustic models available to faculty, staff and students, and distributes some of these to the community via the SVN server, including the Oases and Csnap legacy ocean acoustic propagation models, as well as extensions such as the Scatt underwater target scattering codes. A critical capability is a comprehensive MOOS-IvP simulation environment, used for virtual experiments which the Laboratory uses extensively in the planning and preparation of field experiments, and for development and testing of new autonomous behaviors and processes. A unique capability of the MOOS-IvP simulator is the full integration of a high-fidelity, real-time underwater acoustic modeling framework, which supports simulation of fully autonomous acoustic sensing missions with AUVs towing hydrophone arrays. This capability is a crucial component of the development of the fully integrated, autonomous sensing, modeling and control concepts the laboratory is pioneering for distributed underwater surveillance and monitoring systems with no or extremely limited possibility for operator involvement and intervention.