Unmanned Surface Vessels

Pontoon Boat Project

Prototype USV

The prototype of the USV was built by ourselves and serves in the pontoon boat project as a carrier vehicle for sensors that are used for environmental detection above and below water. By means of a multi-beam sonar sensor and a highly accurate GPS, drivability information in unknown waters is to be obtained, which can later be used for other vessels such as the pontoon boat to enable autonomous driving or to assist the driver. The USV is powered by an outboard motor driven by a motor controller on an embedded computer. Steering is implemented via a powerful servo controlled by that comuter. It also offers a finroc interface, which also makes the USV available for testing already developed software for autonomous driving on the water. Thus, for example, it is possible to perform initial tests of the software even before the Ponoton boat is finally available. Due to its small size of 1.4m x 1.1m x 0.75m (LxWxH) and a weight of about 25 kg, it is easy to transport and ideally suited for spontaneous tests.


Similar to the USV prototype, this USV will also serve as a carrier vehicle for the multi-beam sonar sensor in the pontoon boat project. This vessel is about 3mx1.6mx1.2m (LxWxH) in size and weighs around 270 kg. The USV is very sturdily built and has powerful motors, making it best suited for rough conditions, such as those encountered during flooding. The USV can be driven by remote control and a live image from the camera. In addition, there is also the possibility to drive via GPS points. With the help of a multi-beam sonar sensor and a high-precision GPS, the USV is used to obtain navigability information in unknown waters, as is the case, for example, in a flood disaster. The sonar system can be lowered into the water via a special device on the vessel and moved back to a safe position when the water level is low, for example. The navigability information obtained is transmitted live to the pontoon boat, enabling it to drive autonomously or assisting the driver.


The pontoon boat is a multifunctional boat that is used, for example, during flood disasters. It is modular and can be built in different variants, making it suitable for a wide range of tasks. For example, the pontoon boat is suitable for transporting people, animals, food and vehicles, as well as a working platform for rescue workers and the construction of a temporary bridge. The boat was developed by GDELS-Bridge Systems in Kaiserslautern and a first prototype is currently in production. In the future, it will have autonomy functions that are being developed here at the chair. These include, for example, the autonomous driving of the boat on a predefined route as well as the automatic avoidance of obstacles. In order to realize this, a water drone is used, which collects navigability information with the help of a multi-beam sonar sensor and a high-precision GPS and transmits this information live to the pontoon boat as a navigability map. This navigability information is very important because the pontoon boat is often deployed in unknown waters with possible obstacles, such as a flood disaster. In order to be able to react to underwater dynamic obstacles, a rotating single-beam sonar is used here. Flotsam on the water surface is detected, classified and, if necessary, bypassed with the help of laser scanners and stereo cameras.

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