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Doctoral Thesis: Enhancing the AUV long-term deployment: Non-holonomic AUV autonomous docking using acoustics in a funnel-shaped docking station

October 23, 2023

By: Joan Esteba Masjuan
Supervised by:  Dr. Pere Ridao Rodríguez / Dr. Narcís Palomeras Rovira



Underwater robotics has undergone significant development in recent years. It has been applied to a wide range of sectors, such as the mapping of areas of interest, the collection of scientific data, or the Inspection Maintainance and Repair (IMR) tasks for the energy sector (oil and gas, renewable energies, etc.). Nowadays, Remotely Operated Vehicles play a leading role in these fields and are gradually being replaced by Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUVs).

In the coming years, the market will need AUVs deployed for long term in strategic loca- tions, such as oshore wind farms. To achieve this goal, a key factor is the development of Docking Station (DS) where robots can be stationed, charge their batteries, and have a stable channel for fast communication. With this in mind, this thesis focuses on the development of new technologies for the Long Term Deployment (LTD) of non-holonomic AUVs at sites of interest.

The work began with a review of the state of the art. Next, a new metric for scoring docking success was proposed and used for the comparison of dierent strategies. Then, a new docking algorithm that takes into account the ocean current was proposed, simulated, and compared to methods in the literature; with promising results. At this point, a new funnel-based DS, which can be self-aligned with the ocean current to simplify the docking process, was designed and implemented. Finally, the proposed DS and docking algorithm were validated at sea using Sparus II AUV equipped with an inverse Ultra-Short BaseLine (USBL) system for the DS localization. The results demonstrate the validity of the proposal and pave the way for applications requiring the LTD of AUVs.

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