Development of a Small Sonar Altimeter and Constant Altitude Controller for a Miniature Autonomous Underwater Vehicle


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Virginia Tech


Miniature Autonomous Underwater Vehicles are a major area of research and development today. Because of their size and agility, they are capable of exploring and operating in smaller bodies of water in addition to areas of the ocean that would be out of reach for a larger vehicle. Being autonomous requires that the system must be capable of performing without the need for human supervision, so use of external sensors such as sonar are needed to ensure the safety of the vehicle during missions. However, since all of the onboard instrumentation and external equipment must also be miniature in size, the implementation of a small sonar system is desirable.

This thesis contains a brief introduction to sound and sonar, leading into a description of the design and development of a small, inexpensive sonar altimeter. Piezoelectric material is used for transduction in the sonar system while a PIC microcontroller processes the return signals from the water. This altimeter was made to be implemented on a miniature autonomous underwater vehicle developed by the Autonomous Systems and Controls Laboratory at Virginia Polytechnic Institute.

In addition to being capable of reporting ocean depths, sonar systems can be used to aid in the navigation of underwater vehicles. A constant altitude controller based on sonar data has been designed, tested, and implemented on the autonomous underwater vehicle. Possibilities for an obstacle avoidance system involving sonar are also discussed in this thesis.



altimeter, sonar, altitude controller, obstacle avoidance, auv, autonomous underwater vehicle