A comparison study of biologically inspired propulsion systems for an autonomous underwater vehicle

Watts, Christopher Mark (2009) A comparison study of biologically inspired propulsion systems for an autonomous underwater vehicle. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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The field of Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUVs) has increased dramatically in size and scope over the past two decades. Application areas for AUVs are numerous and varied; from deep sea exploration, to pipeline surveillance to mine clearing. However, one limiting factor with the current technology is the duration of missions that can be undertaken and one contributing factor to this is the efficiency of the propulsion system, which is usually based on marine propellers.

As fish are highly efficient swimmers greater propulsive efficiency may be possible by mimicking their fish tail propulsion system. The main concept behind this work was therefore to investigate whether a biomimetic fish-like propulsion system is a viable propulsion system for an underwater vehicle and to determine experimentally the efficiency benefits of using such a system. There have been numerous studies into biomimetic fish like propulsion systems and robotic fish in the past with many claims being made as to the benefits of a fish like propulsion system over conventional marine propulsion systems. These claims include increased efficiency and greater manoeuvrability. However, there is little published experimental data to characterise the propulsive efficiency of a fish like propulsive system. Also, very few direct experimental comparisons have been made between biomimetic and conventional propulsion systems. This work attempts to address these issues by directly comparing experimentally a biomimetic underwater propulsion system to a conventional propulsion system to allow for a better understanding of the potential benefits of the biomimetic system.

This work is split into three parts. Firstly, the design and development of a novel prototype vehicle called the RoboSalmon is covered. This vehicle has a biomimetic tendon drive propulsion system which utilizes one servo motor for actuation and has a suite of onboard sensors and a data logger. The second part of this work focuses on the development of a mathematical model of the RoboSalmon vehicle to allow for a better understanding of the dynamics of the system. Simulation results from this model are compared to the experimental results and show good correlation.

The final part of the work presents the experimental results obtained comparing the RoboSalmon prototype with the biomimetic tail system to the propeller and rudder system. These experiments include a study into the straight swimming performance, recoil motion, start up transients and power consumption. For forward swimming the maximum surge velocity of the RoboSalmon was 0.18ms-1 and at this velocity the biomimetic system was found to be more efficient than the propeller system. When manoeuvring the biomimetic system was found to have a significantly reduced turning radius.

The thesis concludes with a discussion of the main findings from each aspect of the work, covering the benefits obtained from using the tendon drive system in terms of efficiencies and manoeuvring performance. The limitations of the system are also discussed and suggestions for further work are included.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Biomimetics, robot fish
Subjects: T Technology > TK Electrical engineering. Electronics Nuclear engineering
Colleges/Schools: College of Science and Engineering > School of Engineering
Supervisor's Name: McGookin, Dr. Euan and Macauley, Dr. Martin
Date of Award: 2009
Depositing User: Mr Christopher M Watts
Unique ID: glathesis:2009-1672
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 31 Mar 2010
Last Modified: 10 Dec 2012 13:44
URI: https://theses.gla.ac.uk/id/eprint/1672

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