Cooperative Localization for Autonomous Underwater Vehicles

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Abstract

The absence of GPS underwater makes navigation for Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUVs) a difficult challenge. Without an external reference in the form of acoustic beacons at known positions, the vehicle has to rely on proprioceptive information obtained through a compass, a Doppler Velocity Logger (DVL) or an Inertial Navigation System (INS) [1]. Independent of the quality of the sensors used, the error in the position estimate based on dead-reckoning information grows without bound. Typical navigation errors are 0.5% to 2% of distance traveled for vehicles traveling within a few hundred meters of the sea floor such that their DVL has a lock on the bottom. Errors as low as 0.1% can be obtained with large and expensive INS systems, but for vehicles relying only on a compass and a speed estimate can be as high as 10%. By surfacing the AUV can obtain a position update through its GPS, but this is impossible (under ice) or undesirable for many applications. The use of static beacons in the form of a Long Baseline (LBL) array limits the operation area to a few km2 and requires a substantial deployment effort before operations, especially in deep water.