Wednesday, November 20, 2013

System Characterization

How some of us spend our nights at Platypus - working on characterizing our system a bit better so we can improve future hull iterations, design more power efficient algorithms, and update our controller. The end result will hopefully mean longer operating times, improved control, and less operator time saving boats from entanglement in shoreline vegetation.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Depth Mapping

Platypus has started working with Aquatic Edge Consulting and Contour Innovations to produce high-quality, low-cost depth contours and vegetation maps, like the ones below.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Platypus on The Verge

The Verge website came out and filmed Platypus and the airboats as a part of short film about Pittsburgh's transformation from steel city to robot city.

Check it out.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Platypus goes to China!

Paul recently traveled to Nanjing to begin working with NUST and the airboats.  Zesheng and Yaonon did most of the work making the boats work in a beautiful NUST pond.

We also showed the boats at a robotics exhibition at a huge new technology park just outside Nanjing.

We are looking at the possibility of opening Platypus-China with researchers from Nanjing University.  Specifically, Platypus-China would look at shrimp and sea cucumber farms.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Hull building and Boat racing with Western Pennsylvania Summer STEMM Academy

On Friday Platypus played host to a team of high school students from STEMM Academy as part of their summer camp. After a brief introduction and demonstration students were given a chance to control one of two airboats via a Playstaion controller. This lead to more than one collision, a lot of spinning in circles and even becoming entangled in the  line of a nearby fisherman!

Students were then split into two teams (team Narwhal and team No Name) to build their own boat hull. After a quick demonstration by George, students used a hotwire, jigsaw, scissors and sandpaper to craft their own boat from two pieces of foam. No Name opted for a larger, more stable hull while team Narwhal, easily recognizable by the protruding horn from the front of their hull, chose a small, faster design. After the airboats fans and electronics were transferred to the new hulls, it was time for deployment!

Both boats successful navigated the pond, with students taking turns to control them. Team Narwhal, while faster, gave many nervous moments as it nearly tipped over in each tight turn. Unfortunately the final race was cancelled due to loss of power from a dead generator, however this left both teams as winners! Overall a great day was enjoyed by both Platypus and the students of STEMM academy.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Matilda Bay

The University of Western Australia, School of Environmental Systems Engineering is trying out a Platypus boat in Matilda Bay.  Check out the boat next to some of Perth's famous Black Swans (there are many of these, unlike the economics version!)  Next they are off to a mine wastewater pond.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Video from 5 boat deployment

Here are a few choice videos of the 5 boat team autonomously taking water measurements on the Doha Corniche.

The day started out with very calm water, making for some interesting ripple patterns as the boats began their lawnmower pattern paths.

Towards the end of the morning the waves started to get a bit choppy, but the boats had no complaints handling it.

Here is a short clip from the GoPro that gives some first person perspective on what the waves are like out there.

This work was performed under a grant from the Qatar National Research Fund program. 

Murphy's Law Relents for Just One Day

After two months where it seemed everything that could go wrong did go wrong, Murphy's Law relented for just one day and we managed to get five boats simultaneously sensing in the Persian/Arabian Gulf. 

Our setup footprint and setup time has steadily decreased over the course of our stay in Doha, due to many factors:
  • Rental of a SUV so equipment does not have to be unloaded every night
  • Boxes to compactly store and safely transport the shrouds and magic plates
  • Purchase of a smaller antenna
  • Success in finding a deep cycle battery and inverter for power
Below is a picture of the reduced set of supplies we unload at the Corniche each morning.

The weather looked very promising this morning: small waves headed directly toward the shore, making for easy robot retrieval in the event of a failure resulting in loss of control. We got to work setting things up and soon were pushing boats into the water:

After a couple phone reboots, we had all 5 boats running happily in the water and got to sit back, relax, and take pictures. Here are some much anticipated photos of a 5 boat deployment!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Pictures of the new boat, technical details soon ..

Smoke and Slow Progress

We put two of the latest boats into the Persian Gulf (Arabian Gulf) this morning.

Unfortunately, within 1 minute, one of them was smoking, with a key part of the electronics unexpectedly overheating.   We had about a 20min wait while the disabled boat floated to shore.

We turned the speed down on the second boat and managed to keep it from over-heating.  The boat moved slowly at the lower speed and had some trouble with the winds and waves, but it did work.

A tourist taxi boat did its best to run the little guy over, but failed.

All in all it was slow progress, in more ways than one, but it was progress.  If we can stop the FET over-heating, we'll have more pictures of sunny Doha on Sunday.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Testing in Doha to begin Thursday

The boats will be going into the water near the Corniche in Doha, Qatar on Thursday morning.  This will be the first real test of the new boat.  We hope the amazing view they will have won't give them stage fright.   Stay tuned.

Here is the boat, all ready to go:

In fact, the whole fleet is ready to go: