Flow-relative control of an underwater robot

Taavi Salumäe, Maarja Kruusmaa


This paper describes flow-relative and flow-aided navigation of a biomimetic underwater vehicle using an artificial lateral line for flow sensing. Most of the aquatic animals have flow sensing organs, but there are no man-made analogues to those sensors currently in use on underwater vehicles. Here, we show that artificial lateral line sensing can be used for detecting hydrodynamic regimens and for controlling the robot’s motion with respect to the flow. We implement station holding of an underwater vehicle in a steady stream and in the wake of a bluff object. We show that lateral line sensing can provide a speed estimate of an underwater robot thus functioning as a short-term odometry for robot navigation. We also demonstrate navigation with respect to the flow in periodic turbulence and show that controlling the position of the robot in the reduced flow zone in the wake of an object reduces a vehicle’s energy consumption.

  • Received November 9, 2012.
  • Accepted February 7, 2013.
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