IMarEST awards AU$14,000 Laurie Prandolini Fellowship for research into collaborative autonomous marine fleets
The Institute of Marine Engineering, Science & Technology (IMarEST) has awarded its Laurie Prandolini Research Fellowship of AU$14,000 to Fletcher Thompson toward his PhD research project, Project FOX (Fleet Operations and eXpeditions), which aims to “establish distributed intelligence into an autonomous marine vehicle fleet to exhibit collaborative behaviors.”
Thompson holds a Bachelor of Engineering degree in Naval Architecture, and is a PhD candidate at the Australian Maritime College of the University of Tasmania.
Greg Hellessey from the IMarEST’s Victoria Branch said that Thompson’s research was chosen because of its global potential: “Out of all the applications from across Australia, Fletcher’s was an absolute stand-out in that it was clear it would be ground-breaking work at a national and international level. His work here is pushing into new ground in the maritime sphere around the world.”
Autonomous marine vehicles that have the capability to collaborate will be able to achieve multi-faceted and complicated missions that the current industry standard solo platform would be unable to complete. Such missions include persistent and sustainable environment monitoring; autonomous monitoring and maintenance of subsea systems and structures; and, persistent search and rescue standby. The underlying requirement is that the vehicles within the fleet must be capable of recognizing their ability to contribute to a task in a collaborative manner. This distributed intelligence is the primary focus of research for Project FOX.
“This fellowship is such an exciting injection for my research – suddenly, much more is possible. It will fund the equipment needed for physical experiments [which] will extend my research, building on my existing computer-based modeling and bringing the results into the real world.” Thompson said.
Project FOX’s secondary aim is “to pursue real world fleet-specific tasks and scenarios to provide basis of applicability for a heterogeneous autonomous marine vehicle fleet.” To achieve this aim, Thompson seeks to implement an aerial, surface and subsea fleet that is capable of performing search and rescue missions for an extended time at sea. He aims to demonstrate the capabilities of such fleets and to outline that the scope of missions for which such a fleet can be configured has no restrictions.
Now, with the support of the IMarEST’s Laurie Prandolini Research Fellowship, Thompson will be able to obtain additional equipment for these vehicles and extend the scope of Project FOX. These resources, such as embedded high performance 3D image processing systems; laser scanning modules; and, high resolution mono and stereo camera units will greatly improve the navigation, and environmental sensing abilities of the fleet, to a globally competitive level.
The Laurie Prandolini Research Fellowship was established in November 2011 to honor the memory of the late Lawrence Prandolini, OAM, CEng FIMarEST MRINA MIEAust. Laurie made an outstanding contribution to the maritime community in Australia, New Zealand, and South Pacific region, and in particular to IMarEST, nationally and internationally.
The IMarEST awards a single AU$14,000 Laurie Prandolini Research Fellowship every year to a Doctoral candidate or post-Doctoral researcher in either marine engineering, marine science or marine technology. Applicants will be formally affiliated to a university in Australian, New Zealand or the Pacific Islands.