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Having recently graduated from the French Institute of Advanced Mechanics with a specialization in Mechatronics, I am embarking on a doctorate at the University of Toulon in the field of underwater robotics.
My work is part of a project in underwater robotics aimed at specifying and developing lightweight robotic systems capable of performing underwater reconnaissance and mapping missions in coastal areas. These systems will have to be able to cross surfing areas (typically from 1 to 10m), characterized by a particularly complex and dynamic environment (swell, surf, current, etc.).
Scientific issue of the thesis
Underwater robotics research is mainly concerned with the development of control laws, but generally does not include the mechatronic design of the vehicle in the optimization of the control law. Indeed, this approach is not necessary as long as the vehicle is in open water, which is the case for most missions. On the other hand, in highly disturbed coastal areas (known as “surfing”), it would be interesting to be able to optimize the mechatronic design of the vehicle to increase the robustness and/or efficiency of the control system through the following points: estimating/observing hydrodynamic parameters, reducing the influence of current disturbances and adapting the actuators to the needs of control laws.
Thus, the first step is to develop a simulation environment to model the behaviour of an underwater drone in the surfing area as accurately as possible. The evaluation of the system requires the development of innovative criteria to quantify its ability to perform a given mission. These criteria will be used to evaluate the mechanical design and control of an underwater drone in simulation. In a second step, they can be directly integrated into a process of optimizing the system parameters (general shape, position/orientation of the engines, holonomic or non holonomic property of the vehicle) according to the mission to be carried out (monitoring a pipeline, stabilization around a point, moving to a new location, maintaining an orientation, etc.). Finally, all this research work will allow the development of reconfigurable robotics solutions, which would be the final research focus of the thesis.