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Talk-09: Networked Utilities for Reliable and Safe Transfers of Control Between Native Mission Software and Backseat MOOS-­IvP Helm on an Autonomous Surface Craft

Amit Nehra and Daniel L. Codiga, Graduate School of Oceanography University of Rhode Island

Autonomous surface crafts (ASCs) can cost­effectively improve spatial and temporal coverage and resolution of oceanographic surveys. The Surveying Coastal Ocean Autonomous Profiler (SCOAP) is an 11­m ASC under development with emphasis on seaworthiness in open coastal waters and unattended deployment durations of up to weeks in navigable waters. SCOAP is a modified SeaRobotics unmanned surface vehicle, with proprietary control software for remote control and simple predefined autonomous missions. To enable more sophisticated autonomy, including collision avoidance, MOOS-­IvP Helm (MIH) will operate in a backseat/payload configuration. Consequently the capability to transfer control to MIH from the native mission software, and vice versa, in a reliable and safe way is a critical baseline need.

Control will routinely be intentionally transferred from the native remote control to MIH at the start of a deployment, and oppositely when it ends. More importantly, the capability to remotely initiate a transfer mid­mission, as well as automation of transfers in the event one of the two systems fails, are also crucial for safe operations. In this talk a set of utilities under development for these purposes will be described.

Features include the ability to launch a specified MIH mission, poke or scope the MOOS database, monitor/query the status of each Helm, re­launch a Helm if necessary, and hand control from one Helm to another. A networked group of utilities, running as daemons, is distributed across the native and payload CPUs and communicates via TCP/IP connections. Each utility has similar functions to ensure robust bi­directional communication and control, and periodically scans to confirm the MOOS database and native software are both functioning, or ready to function, as expected. The main priority is to ensure that the propulsion system is always controlled by a functioning Helm, and that no transfer of control can result in an unattended Helm. Results of initial testing using SCOAP will be presented. The utilities will be suitable for use on SeaRobotics crafts, or others similarly configured, and the overall approach has the potential to be generalized for interfacing MIH with other proprietary native control systems.


  • Payload Autonomy Interface
  • Vehicle Safety
  • Autonomous Surface Vehicles (ASVs)
  • Oceanographic Sampling
  • MOOS-IvP
  • SeaRobotics