Planning Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV) missions is easier than ever, but analysing the data collected is often laborious. That’s why AMC Search has built Romulus, its own software to export customised data products.
March 12, 2020
In recent years, AUV software and controls have improved considerably; access to digital maps, satellite imagery and even simulated outcomes is making it ever easier to plan AUV missions.
Post-processing and mission analysis, however, is often a different story, because each operator and their needs are different. AMC Search found that AUV operators and trainees were often forced back to the lowest common denominator in data analysis; rows and columns of numbers in spreadsheets.
This is time consuming and presents a significant barrier for entities exploring the use of AUVs in their organisation. Spreadsheets are not user-friendly when having to use complex formulae to process deep data sets.
Therefore, we needed to get beyond the numerical operations and find an alternative to relying on spreadsheets and start deriving insight and understanding from the measurements made by an AUV. That is, after all, the objective of all the effort that goes into running these vehicles.
Spreadsheets are fine for many personal and business applications, but they require a steep learning curve for technical analysis. In an industrial setting, they are likely to be bypassed completely, where raw data are ingested into customised processing pipelines and managed in a prescribed and consistent manner.
Consistency is critical for good data management and preventing mistakes. Processing and labelling errors become more likely as missions run into the night and people get tired. The ever-widening number of AUV use cases precludes the inclusion of such pipelines into the manufacturer-supplied software.
So, we built our own.
The Romulus software bridges the gap between processing tools and training and operating needs.
AMC Search typically trains personnel using a REMUS model AUV. Thus this software project name was inspired by Roman mythology, where the brothers Romulus and Remus founded Rome (we do gloss over the aspect of fratricide in the story - a metaphor can only be stretched so far).
The Romulus software allows us to import AUV data and to provide plots and statistics that expose fault and performance information and enable us to guide our clients through the process of investigating vehicle behaviour.
As the software is in-house, we can tailor it to meet the needs of specific courses or vehicles.
The operator is presented with an intuitive graphical user interface and can select options and perspectives before exporting products as needed. The most common exports are plot images that are used to present the data collected in an oral report. Romulus allows for exporting to formats compatible with Google Earth, to help put the mission in a wider, more familiar context.
Data are automatically combined from multiple vehicle logs and message codes given meaningful descriptions so that if data processing in a spreadsheet is required this can be exported in a more accessible and unified format.
Romulus is just one part of the delivery of AUV services to the maritime sector by AMC Search.
In the area of training, the software complements hands-on fieldwork, theory and planning sessions. Where we are delivering a data product to a consulting client, Romulus will improve our workflow and efficiency.
AUVs are capable of supporting the work of a wide range of maritime organisations, and with data analysis tools that are as simple to use as the AUV software and controls, there are fewer barriers to entry.
Dr Damien Guihen, Autonomous Marine Systems Specialist and Romulus developer
AMC Search provides a range of training and consulting services that help organisations get the most out of Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUVs) for activities such as hydrographic survey, defence and mine clearance work.