This August in Monterey Bay, Calif., an entire fleet of undersea robots will for the first time work together without the aid of humans to make detailed and efficient observations of the ocean.
The oceanographic test bed in Monterey is expected to yield rich information in particular about a periodic upwelling of cold water that occurs at this time of year near Point Ao Nuevo, northwest of Monterey Bay.
But the project has potentially larger implications. It may lead to the development of robot fleets that forecast ocean conditions and better protect endangered marine animals, track oil spills, and guide military operations at sea. Moreover, the mathematical system that allows the undersea robots to self-choreograph their movements in response to their environment might one day power other robotic teams that -- without human supervision -- could explore not just oceans, but deserts, rain forests and even other planets.
In addition, the ability to coordinate autonomous vehicles -- a challenge inspired by the grace of bird flocks and fish schools -- may give biologists greater insight into the highly efficient behaviors of animals.
The August field experiment is the centerpiece of a three-year program known as Adaptive Sampling and Prediction (ASAP), which is funded by the Office of Naval Research. The two co-leaders of ASAP are Naomi Ehrich Leonard of Princeton University and Steven Ramp of the Naval Postgraduate School.
The multidisciplinary team of ASAP investigators who come together from more than a dozen prestigious research institutions -- consists of physical oceanographers, marine biologists and researchers in control and dynamics.0
During the experiment, the ASAP system will determine what paths the underwater robots should follow to take the most information-rich samples, or measurements, of ocean activity. As the ocean changes, automated computer programs will update the sampling strategy
Contact: Teresa Riordan