Prev-Talk | Next-Talk | All-Talks | Talks-Sorted

Talk-13: The Boston Harbor Robo-Challenge

Paul Robinette, Michael Benjamin, Greg Nannig, MECHE/CSAIL/Sea Grant, MIT

Inland waterways present a unique challenge to robotics. Autonomous surface vehicles must share the river with recreational boaters of varying levels of experience and commercial traffic that must operate on a tight schedule. Still, there are many commercial and scientific applications that require navigating these waterways. For example, currently, MIT Sea Grant must manually pilot a robot into the harbor to measure ocean acidification. This example is the motivation for the Boston Harbor Robo-Challenge. We intend to modify our WAM-V, REx4, to autonomously navigate the Charles River into the Boston Harbor, and then traverse the harbor into Massachusetts Bay. This involves integrating with a variety of human-piloted traffic, traversing in confined spaces under bridges, and interfacing with drawbridge and lock operators to request clearance. REx4 is equipped with a Velodyne HDL-32 LIDAR and a 1080p camera for navigation and obstacle avoidance purposes. We are also evaluating the use of AIS and RADAR. Work this summer focuses on obstacle avoidance and SLAM on the river with the intent to traverse the Old Locks before the end of the season.


  • ASVs
  • Inland Marine Autonomy
  • Human Robot Interaction