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Grex Box Teaches Underwater Robots to work as a Team

Question asked by kunal in #Robotics on Jan 31, 2011
kunal · Jan 31, 2011
Rank D1 - MASTER
Mankind has not unraveled the mysteries lying deep inside the oceans and seas across the globe. Till date, about 90% of the ocean floor is unexplored and untouched by human hands owing to the numerous technical difficulties faced underwater. Ocean exploration is very expensive and time consuming task hence scientists developed robots which were specialized for deep sea investigation. These robots called Automated Underwater Vehicles (AUV) have been used by various research teams since about a decade. But even after all these years, the AUVs are highly inefficient because of two main reasons. The first is that they can’t travel longer distances away from their mother ship and the other reason is that they work independently and hence are able to gather very little information in one go.


To find a solution for this problem, the nations of EU came together to fund the mega research and development project which aims to make the AUVs work in tandem as a team in an organized way. This project called the Grex project will usher in a new era of ocean exploration with large fleets of submarine robots collecting and accumulating a huge data base which can be then used for industrial and research purposes. “Grex” is the Latin word meaning a herd or a flock. The project aims at creating a prototype network and middleware structure that can manage to tech team work to a swarm of different explorer robots.

This stress is on techniques that will enable these vehicles to perform tasks which can’t be performed by individual machines. Thus the quality and provability of the information will improve. The main barriers that are encountered while operating groups of AUVs underwater include absence of reliable GPS based navigation systems, erratic communication systems and a large amount of unpredictable noise and interference. All these intricacies have been taken care of by this project which has designed a GREX box- a communication package which can be embedded in any AUV. It is very economical solution because you don’t have to manufacture new AUVs.

The list of tasks that these groups can perform is a long one. One of them is that the swarm could be programmed in a manner that allows a signal to ping from mother ship to a AUV and to another AUV after that increasing the range of the explorers. The GREX project was successfully tested in November 2009 in the Atlantic ocean near the coastal city of Sesimbra in Portugal. A large number of European countries have already started signing deals as they expect this technology to be fully operational in a couple of years. Posted in: #Robotics

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