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ABC Channel 7 news recently featured BFS researchers Prof. Chis Clark (Harvey Mudd Engineering) and his students and their work tracking sharks with autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs or robots).

During this past summer and fall, the Clark group has been testing their AUVs in pHake Lake. If you happened by the lake at the right time, you may have seen students out in the boats controlling and monitoring the AUVs from a laptop computer…

Chris Gage and Dylan Shinzaki (under cover so he can see the computer screen) testing the AUV in pHake Lake. ©Nancy Hamlett.

…or seen the robots and associated gear at the boat landing:

The AUV and associated gear at the pHake Lake boat landing. ©Nancy Hamlett.

Once the group completed this summer’s testing, they took the AUVs to Catalina Island to track leopard sharks, and ABC Channel 7 News reported on the shark-tracking robots:

Click photo to see the ABC video! (Photo courtesy of Dr. Gwen Goodmanlowe)

According to the Harvey Mudd College News Release:

The new shark tracking technology allows scientists to follow sharks across longer distances and for longer time periods of time, as well as report on the sharks’ environment, providing information about the factors that may influence their migration patterns.

The tracking system uses multiple autonomous underwater vehicles, or AUVs, equipped with sensors designed to receive signals from an acoustic-emitter tag attached to the shark. Based on the tag’s time of arrival and signal strength data, the AUV can estimate and follow the shark’s location. The AUVs, which resemble small torpedoes, are programmed to continuously circle the the shark. The AUVs follow opposite sides of the circular paths to provide opposing sensor vantage points of the shark.

Notably, Gage ’13 wrote code for an acoustic communication-based command and control system that allows the researchers to run and monitor the system from a dock or boat. Successful multi-AUV tracking and following of a leopard shark was accomplished this past summer in Big Fisherman’s Cove, Catalina Island, Calif.

Sources and more information:

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