Walter Matthew R.

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Matthew R.

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  • Article
    Towards automated sample collection and return in extreme underwater environments
    (Wiley, 2022-06-24) Billings, Gideon ; Walter, Matthew R. ; Pizarro, Oscar ; Johnson-Roberson, Matthew ; Camilli, Richard
    In this report, we present the system design, operational strategy, and results of coordinated multivehicle field demonstrations of autonomous marine robotic technologies in search-for-life missions within the Pacific shelf margin of Costa Rica and the Santorini-Kolumbo caldera complex, which serve as analogs to environments that may exist in oceans beyond Earth. This report focuses on the automation of remotely operated vehicle (ROV) manipulator operations for targeted biological sample-collection-and-return from the seafloor. In the context of future extraterrestrial exploration missions to ocean worlds, an ROV is an analog to a planetary lander, which must be capable of high-level autonomy. Our field trials involve two underwater vehicles, the SuBastian ROV and the Nereid Under Ice (NUI) hybrid ROV for mixed initiative (i.e., teleoperated or autonomous) missions, both equipped seven-degrees-of-freedom hydraulic manipulators. We describe an adaptable, hardware-independent computer vision architecture that enables high-level automated manipulation. The vision system provides a three-dimensional understanding of the workspace to inform manipulator motion planning in complex unstructured environments. We demonstrate the effectiveness of the vision system and control framework through field trials in increasingly challenging environments, including the automated collection and return of biological samples from within the active undersea volcano Kolumbo. Based on our experiences in the field, we discuss the performance of our system and identify promising directions for future research.