Protocol Labs Research
2013-05-06 / Conference paper
Joint ASV/AUV range-based formation control: Theory and experimental results
2013 IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation / 2013.05.06 / Karlsruhe, Germany
Jorge M. Soares , A. Pedro Aguiar, António M. Pascoal, Alcherio Martinoli


The use of groups of autonomous marine vehicles has enormous potential in numerous marine applications, perhaps the most relevant of which is the surveying and exploration of the oceans, still widely unknown and misunderstood. In many mission scenarios requiring the concerted operation of multiple marine vehicles carrying distinct, yet complementary sensor suites, relative positioning and formation control becomes mandatory. However, the constraints placed by the medium make it hard to both communicate and localize vehicles, even in relation to each other. In this paper, we deal with the challenging problem of keeping an autonomous underwater vehicle in a moving triangular formation with respect to 2 leader vehicles. We build upon our previous theoretical work on range-only formation control, which presents simple feedback laws to drive the controlled vehicle to its intended position in the formation using only ranges obtained to the leading vehicles with no knowledge of the formation path. We then introduce the real-world constraints associated with the use of autonomous underwater vehicles, especially the low frequency characteristics of acoustic ranging and its unreliability. We discuss the required changes to implement the solution in our vehicles, and provide simulation results using a full dynamic and communication model. Finally, we present the results of real world trials using MEDUSA-class autonomous marine vehicles.