Title

Bathymetric Mapping Using Unmanned Aerial Vehicles

Poster Number

3

Lead Author Affiliation

Electrical and Computer Engineering

Lead Author Status

Faculty

Introduction

Wetlands are critical to the water cycle, yet they are a difficult environment to safely and effectively monitor. Scientists need to measure many aspects of this complex system; however, current methods for installing sensing systems disrupt the environment and current sensing systems cannot adapt to its constant changes. To appropriately characterize wetlands water systems, precise measurements of the water channel topography and bathymetry over time are needed. Current work either uses significant manual labor for a single use measurement or automated water measurement systems that heavily interact with the sensitive ecosystem. Our research explores how to perform these measurements using aerial robots to automate the process and to reduce the amount of interaction with the environment. Specifically, in this work, we discuss our work on bathymetric map creation via UAVs and online computation.

Purpose

Our project focuses on implementing and performing field experiments using unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to create bathymetric maps. These maps will enable environmental engineers to design more accurate models of wetlands and other waterways, which then better define how these systems filter and process water. To do provide these maps, our work develops and extends three key pieces: (1) the hardware sensing payload to measure river depth, (2) the winch system to connect the payload to the UAV, and (3) the software to define where to measure as well as control all parts of the system.

Method

We divided the system into three separate yet connected pieces. For the first part, we redesigned and extended prior work into measuring river depth with aerial sonar sensors. As that method did not work, we instead changed to water sonar sensors, which required a redesign of the sensing circuitry, including circuit simulation, new PCB design, and calibration of the new system. For the second part, we redesigned and improved a prior winch design used for a previous (and unrelated project). Our improved winch needs to handle a wide range of payloads, to provide controlled operation of the payload through improved motor design, and to measure the rate of descent and ascent. For the third part, we began with prior simulation results of possible bathymetric algorithms. We implemented those results on our UAV system for verification, developed a new online algorithm, and developed an overall control system to connect all components together.

Results

We implemented all three parts of the project and connected them together. Each part was independently verified and calibrated through lab experiments. The sonar sensor system measured water in a tank at various ranges to confirm operation; the winch characterized operation for a variety of calibrated weights; and the algorithms were compared to simulation results. We are now in the process of performing field experiments to create bathymetric maps and confirm full system functionality.

Significance

These results will allow us to provide bathymetric maps for environmental scientists at Pacific to use in their research as well as any others interested in modeling wetlands. We plan to fully test our hypothesis that automatic map creation provides more accurate models for less cost (in terms of labor and equipment) while reducing the environmental impact of the measurements. If our hypothesis is correct, our new techniques will improve our understanding of wetlands and the vital role that the bodies of water play in ensuring clean water.

Location

DeRosa University Center

Format

Poster Presentation

Poster Session

Afternoon

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Apr 27th, 12:30 PM Apr 27th, 2:30 PM

Bathymetric Mapping Using Unmanned Aerial Vehicles

DeRosa University Center

Wetlands are critical to the water cycle, yet they are a difficult environment to safely and effectively monitor. Scientists need to measure many aspects of this complex system; however, current methods for installing sensing systems disrupt the environment and current sensing systems cannot adapt to its constant changes. To appropriately characterize wetlands water systems, precise measurements of the water channel topography and bathymetry over time are needed. Current work either uses significant manual labor for a single use measurement or automated water measurement systems that heavily interact with the sensitive ecosystem. Our research explores how to perform these measurements using aerial robots to automate the process and to reduce the amount of interaction with the environment. Specifically, in this work, we discuss our work on bathymetric map creation via UAVs and online computation.