Robust Maneuverability of a Miniature Low-Cost Underwater Robot using Multiple Fin Actuation

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Journal Article

In this paper we present the design of a miniature (100 mm) autonomous underwater robot that is low-cost ($ 100), easy to manufacture, and highly maneuverable. A key aspect of the robot design that makes this possible is the use of low-cost magnet-in-coil actuators, which have a small profile and minimal sealing requirements. This allows us to create a robot with multiple flapping fin propulsors that independently control robot motions in surge, heave, and yaw. We present several results on the robot, including: (i) quantified open-loop swimming characteristics; (ii) autonomous behaviors using a pressure sensor and an IMU to achieve controlled swimming of prescribed trajectories; (iii) feedback from an optic sensor to enable homing to a light source. The robot is designed to form the basis for underwater swarm robotics testbeds, where low cost and ease of manufacture are critical, and 3D maneuverability allows testing complex coordination inspired by natural fish schools. Individually, miniature and low-cost underwater robots can also provide a platform for the study of 3D autonomy and marine vehicle dynamics in educational and resource-constrained settings. 

IEEE Robotics and Automation Letters (RA-L)