Mission Planning for Unmanned Underwater Vehicles


At the Naval Research Laboratory my main research focus is to enhance the autonomy of unmanned underwater vehicles (UUVs). The research mainly focuses on developing onboard planning techniques that allow an UUV to autonomously plan the high-level actions and the low-level motions needed to accomplish the overarching mission. Furthermore, the research seeks to alleviate the burden placed on human operators by making it possible to specify missions in a structured language resembling English. The key research challenges arise in: i) breaking down the mission specification into several smaller tasks, ii) planning collision-free dynamically-feasible motions for each task, iii) adapting the high-level plans and low level motions in response to environmental and contextual changes, and iv) ensuring operational safety.

Project Aims

  1. Develop algorithms to enable long endurance task and motion planning for UUVs
  2. Create an easy to use interface between the planning algorithm and the human operator
  3. Employ methods robust enough to handle time-varying ocean currents, uncertain environments, and the underlying dynamics of the UUV

Key Publications

[pdf] J. McMahon and E. Plaku. Autonomous data collection with limited time for underwater vehicles. IEEE Robotics and Automation Letters, 2(1):112-119, 2017. [ bib ]

[pdf] James McMahon and Erion Plaku. Mission and motion planning for autonomous underwater vehicles operating in spatially and temporally complex environments. IEEE Journal of Oceanic Engineering, 41(4):893-912, 2016. [ bib ]

[pdf] Erion Plaku and James McMahon. Motion planning and decision making for underwater vehicles operating in constrained environments in the littoral. In Towards Autonomous Robotic Systems, volume 8069, pages 328-339. 2013. [ bib ]