BWSI Course - Autonomous Underwater Vehicles Challenge

Program Overview

Many of the final frontiers of exploration on Earth are underwater – the deep ocean, water-filled cave systems in the Yucatan Peninsula, and the subglacial lakes of Antarctica. Exploring the farthest reaches of these areas requires underwater piloted
or semi-autonomous vehicles. Hydrodynamic pressure, water currents, darkness, curious sea creatures and slimy bacteria make underwater places difficult to navigate. True underwater autonomy is difficult to achieve, and even the most advanced piloted vehicles are frequently lost.


This course will introduce students to the challenges faced by real-word ocean engineers in designing, building and programming autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs). The course materials will be organized into four modules:

• Module 1: Get Your Feet Wet: Get familiar with your UUV kit and tools
• Module 2: Get Your Bearings: Undersea sensing and sensor integration
• Module 3: Refine Your Stroke: Hydrodynamics and fin design
• Module 4: Explore the Undersea World: Autonomous operations
The culmination of the course will be an exciting test of true autonomy – the student AUVs will autonomously navigate an underwater obstacle course.




The prerequisite knowledge and skills required to excel in the summer course will be covered in online materials made available to students in advance. This portion touches the following topics:

  • Python
  • Physics (any level)Complex numbers

Course Topics

  • Hydrodynamics/aerodynamics
  • Vehicle control
  • Sensor integration
  • Data analysis
  • Image processing
  • Autonomy

Summer Course Outline:

Week 1
•          Build Sea Glide vehicle kits
•          Customize and build (3D print) fins and rudders
•          Verify vehicle control models (how fast the vehicle travels in one direction, how the vehicle responds to turning a rudder or fin)
•          Event 1: First swim
Week 2
•          Sensor integration
•          Review data and image processing concepts
•          Integrate sensor processing algorithms into vehicle controller
•          Event 2: Sensor-adaptive swim

Week 3
•          Introduce types of challenges on course
•          Develop autonomy algorithms (use data collected to make automatic decisions)
•          Integrate autonomy processing into vehicle control
•          Plan and program autonomy options
•          Event 3: Obstacle field walkthrough for sensor calibration

Week 4
•          Debug final autonomy logic by navigating examples of challenge course obstacles (e.g. navigate to and drive through suspended hoop)
•          Event 4: Final Challenge!