Purdue University Graduate School

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posted on 2022-07-19, 19:06 authored by Reeve David LambertReeve David Lambert

This thesis presents solutions to some of the problems facing Autonomous Surface Vehicle (ASV) deployments in inland waterways through the development of navigational and control systems. Fluvial systems are one of the hardest inland waterways to navigate and are thus used as a use-case for system development. The systems are built to reduce the reliance on a-prioris during ASV operation. This is crucial for exceptionally dynamic environments such as fluvial bodies of water that have poorly defined routes and edges, can change course in short time spans, carry away and deposit obstacles, and expose or cover shoals and man-made structures as their water level changes. While navigation of fluvial systems is exceptionally difficult potential autonomous data collection can aid in important scientific missions in under studied environments.

The work has four contributions targeting solutions to four fundamental problems present in fluvial system navigation and control. To sense the course of fluvial systems for navigable path determination a fluvial segmentation study is done and a novel dataset detailed. To enable rapid path computations and augmentations in a fast moving environment a Dubins path generator and augmentation algorithm is presented ans is used in conjunction with an Integral Line-Of-Sight (ILOS) path following method. To rapidly avoid unseen/undetected obstacles present in fluvial environments a Deep Reinforcement Learning (DRL) agent is built and tested across domains to create dynamic local paths that can be rapidly affixed to for collision avoidance. Finally, a custom low-cost and deployable ASV, BREAM (Boat for Robotic Engineering and Applied Machine-Learning), capable of operating in fluvial environments is presented along with an autonomy package used in providing base level sensing and autonomy processing capability to varying platforms.

Each of these contributions form a part of a larger documented Fluvial Navigation Control Architecture (FNCA) that is proposed as a way to aid in a-priori free navigation of fluvial waterways. The architecture relates the navigational structures into high, mid, and low-level controller Guidance and Navigational Control (GNC) layers that are designed to increase cross vehicle and domain deployments. Each component of the architecture is documented, tested, and its application to the control architecture as a whole is reported.


NSF 1921060

ONR N00014-20-1-2085


Degree Type

  • Master of Science in Mechanical Engineering


  • Mechanical Engineering

Campus location

  • West Lafayette

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Nina Mahmoudian

Additional Committee Member 2

Mo Rastgaar

Additional Committee Member 3

David Capelleri