Posted on November 24, 2014
AQUABOT is an ongoing project that is conducted by the Cyprus University of Technology with collaboration of two SMEs, Seawave Fisheries Ltd. and Marine & Environmental Research Lab Ltd., in order to produce an innovative service for the Cyprus’ offshore aquaculture sector. In Cyprus there are several licensed companies that operate offshore aquaculture fish farms that are mainly based on surface grid arrays.
In the general case, the fish farm consists of an array of fish net cages and includes fish nets, weights, mooring ropes and anchors. One of the main problems in aquaculture industry is the fish escapes from fish cages. More than 60% of escapes are caused by structural failures of fish farm equipment. The main reasons for such faults are abrasion and tearing of mooring ropes, anchor chains, or holes in the fish nets from fish biting.
In order to prevent such incidents, the regular inspection of all subsystems and early detection of net holes and other types of system faults are the mandatory tasks in the fish production industry. Currently, such operations are provided by human divers. However, this task is associated with risks of human health and lives. These risks have been increasing recently because of the tendency to push fish cage systems to more offshore sites with more severe waves and currents.
One of the possible solutions to decrease human lives risks is to use underwater robots. So, the aim of this project is to develop a robotic system that will automate the tasks of visual inspection of fish farm nets and mooring systems by using an underwater tethered remotely operated vehicle (ROV). In addition, this system will enable to decrease costs and increase efficiency of the inspection tasks by increasing its frequency. Usually, inspection task is provided once per 6 months if it is carried out by humans. By using robots, we can inspect the aquaculture system more frequently.
For the successful accomplishment of the inspection and monitoring tasks, a ROV should be capable to solve different problems while operating in undersea environments. Accurate localization and stabilization of the robot in the proximity of the target, collision-free navigation and coverage of the aquaculture and capability of the user to intervene the system are the key operations. Although these tasks are the common tasks in robotics, constraints that arise from the tether of the
underwater robot and GPS-denied nature of the undersea environment should be taken into account when designing the strategies for aforesaid problems.
The resulting system will fuse the above mentioned problems in order to achieve an autonomy level that will enable it to perform autonomous inspection of the fish-farm net and mooring while providing the capability of shared autonomy whenever a user decides to intervene.
The project is co-funded by the European Regional Development Fund and the Republic of Cyprus through the Research Promotion Foundation under research grant ΑΕΙΦΟΡΙΑ/ΓΕΩΡΓΟ/0311(ΒΙΕ)/08.