CSIRO’s design for the Starbug autonomous submarine won an Engineering Excellence Award in 2006.
Starbug: CSIRO's award-winning robotic submarine
Starbug is an inexpensive, miniature autonomous underwater vehicle ideal for data collection and ecosystem surveys.
5 January 2010 | Updated 14 October 2011
Starbug is small enough to be launched by one person without the need for specialised equipment, such as cranes, and it operates with minimal to no human intervention.
Starbug is one of the first robotic submarines to have a vision system as the primary means of navigation and control.
Starbug’s twin torpedo-style body represents a radical new design philosophy in comparison with other research platforms, which tend to be either square or single hull torpedo shape.
It is also one of the first autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs) in the world where vision is the primary means of navigation and control.
Vision systems are relatively low cost and ideal for navigating complicated terrain such as a coral reef. Furthermore, as marine researchers often need to acquire images, the same sensor can be used for navigation and image collection.
Because GPS signals are not available underwater, CSIRO is developing a localisation system based on underwater sensor networks. Our underwater sensor nodes use acoustic modems to transmit data between themselves.
When equipped with one of these modems, an AUV is able to communicate with the sensor nodes and determine how far away they are. By integrating these distance measurements, the vehicle's position can be determined.
- two stereo camera pairs plus on-board processing hardware and software
- CSIRO’s inertial measurement unit (IMU)
- global positioning system (for when surfaced)
- CSIRO-built low profile motors
- a depth sensor
- robotic arms for manipulating objects or connecting to sensor nodes
- scientific payloads, such as an automated water sampler.
The effectiveness of AUVs for open water monitoring and mapping is increasingly recognised by many oceanographic institutions around the world. Using the right mix of sensors, smart navigation, design, guidance and information processing techniques, next generation AUVs will prove highly valuable to marine services markets.
AUV’s are ideal for performing duties such as:
- inspecting and cataloguing natural habitats
- data collection (both between sensor nodes and for downloading data from nodes)
- inspecting (and potentially repairing) marine infrastructure.
Among other deployments, CSIRO researchers are using Starbug submarines to:
- monitor the quality of water in Lake Wivenhoe, Queensland, Australia
- catalogue the sea floor ecosystems and monitor the health of the Derwent and Huon estuaries and D'Entrecasteaux channel in Tasmania, Australia.
CSIRO's Starbug team won the Innovation category of the 2006 Engineering Excellence Awards.
Read more about the technical details of this work in Field Robotics [external link].