Bio-inspired Adaptive Latching System for Towing and Guiding Power-less Floating Platforms with Autonomous Robotic Boats

by   Luis A. Mateos, et al.

Autonomous robotic boats are expected to perform several tasks: 1) navigate autonomously in water environments, such as the canals of Amsterdam; 2) perform individual task, such as water monitoring, transporting goods and people; 3) latch together to create floating infrastructure, such as bridges and markets. In this paper we present a novel bio-inspired robotic system for latching, towing and guiding a floating passive-power-less platform. The challenge is to design an adaptive latching mechanism, able to create a secure connection between the entities, easy to attach/detach, even if the boats are affected by water disturbances. But most important, the adaptive latching must be able to restricting the DoF (degrees of freedom) of the latched "dummy" platform. Since, the robotic boat may drive it in narrow water canals and must prevent it from drifting and hitting the wall. This novel adaptive latching mechanism is based on the ball and socket joint that allows rotation and free movements in two planes at the same time. It consists of two parts: the male part that includes a bearing stud (ball) integrated on the floating bin "dummy" and the female part located on the autonomous robotic boat. Which integrates an adaptive framed funnel to guide the male ball into an actuated receptor that traps the ball, creating the ball-socket joint between the boats. In this sense, the adaptive latching mechanism mimics squid's tentacles that can adjust the forces applied to a holding object restricting its degrees of freedom. Experimental results are presented from our swarm robotic boats integrating the adaptive latching system and performing the towing and guiding use cases.


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