Coordinated ship-robotic surveys: lessons learned and future challenges
Currently, oceanographic vessels are still the main asset for ocean field studies despite tremendous advances in long endurance autonomous underwater and surface vessels. In fact, ships and autonomous assets have complementary capabilities and limitations: i) autonomous underwater, surface and air vehicles can go beyond the footprint of what a ship can do; ii) ships carry heavy sensors and gear that cannot be presently mounted on most autonomous vessels; and, iii) ships can launch and recover unmanned assets, thus contributing to overcome speed and endurance limitations of these assets. Finally, field studies in the ocean sciences still rely heavily on ship-based cruises even though some of the endurance limitations of these ships come from the human presence on board.
One of the next logical steps in oceanographic field studies concerns coordinated ship-robotic operations. But this step requires new developments, as well as new concepts of operation.
In this presentation, we discuss the lessons learned during the “Exploring the Subtropical front with multiple robots cruise” funded by the Schmidt Ocean Institute and outline future challenges in coordinated ship-robotic surveys. First, the scientific and technological goals are briefly presented as a background for the discussion on coordinated ship-robotic surveys. Second, the tools and technologies used to enable coordinated surveys are discussed with special emphasis on the LSTS software toolchain. Third, key aspects of the 3-week operational deployment are described with the focus on the 24/7 mode of operations and on the geographical footprint of the coordinated operations. Finally, short-term developments and future challenges are discussed in the framework of a systems breakdown structure, which is a way of structuring systems, for coordinated ship-robotic systems.