The challenge

Finding out what’s under the water can be difficult

Due to their scale and difficulty, some tasks are more easily and effectively performed by technology, such as open water monitoring and mapping, and the inspection and cataloguing of underwater natural habitats.

Our response

We created Starbug, an autonomous underwater vehicle

Starbug, our autonomous underwater vehicle

We created Starbug, an inexpensive, miniature autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) ideal for data collection and ecosystem surveys.

Starbug is small enough to be launched by one person without the need for specialised equipment, such as cranes, and it operates with minimal to no human intervention.

Its twin torpedo-style body represents a radical new design philosophy in comparison with other AUVs, which tend to be either a square or single hull torpedo shape. It's also one of the first AUVs in the world where vision is the primary means of navigation and control.

With modern vision systems being relatively low cost, not only can Starbug use vision to navigate complicated terrain such as a coral reef, it can also use the same sensors to capture images.

Because GPS signals are not available underwater, we've also developed a localisation system based on underwater sensor networks. Our underwater sensor nodes use acoustic modems to transmit data between themselves, and when equipped with one of these modems, Starbug is able to communicate with the sensor nodes and determine how far away they are, and integrate these distance measurements to determine its position.

The results

Smart and affordable automated underwater sensing

The effectiveness of AUVs for open water monitoring and mapping is increasingly recognised by many oceanographic institutions around the world. Using the right mix of sensors, smart navigation, design, guidance and information processing techniques, next generation AUVs will prove highly valuable to marine services markets.

We're using Starbug to monitor the quality of water in Lake Wivenhoe in Queensland, catalogue the sea floor ecosystems, and monitor the health of the Derwent and Huon estuaries and the D'Entrecasteaux channel in Tasmania.

Starbug, roaming through the ocean

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