Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Fri Nov 4th (no operations)

Bad weather on Friday the 4th effectively grounded the teams at CAR. The day was used to refine the data analysis from the previous day and in some instances refine flight and ground software. In the case of the UPorto team it was an opportunity to fix the acoustic transducers cable. Thanks to the Girona team who lent them an epoxy kit, the cable was soldered back into place and waterproofed. 

Events of the day in Video

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Thu Nov 2 Ops

Thursday was to be our first day out. An early morning 7am weather and status update was conducted by the two Javier's (Gilabert and Busquets). The weather forecast called for choppy seas with light rain. It was decided that both the Porto and Girona teams would head out to the survey area in the Mediterranean while the  UPCT and Vilanova teams would stay inside the lagoon while evaluating conditions in order to venture out. This was a wise move in hindsight and as it turned out, there was never a dull moment. 

Morning departure from the dock was delayed partly by weather but also by logistics; not enough boats for people to cross the lagoon. On most boats crossing the lagoon would entail a 45 minute ride. Therefore, the original plan was to have a small subset of the shore based folks to cross the lagoon with those deploying and be dropped off at Puerto Maestre. These folks would be doing command/control/information gathering for everyone operating either on the Mediterranean or in the lagoon. The size of the boats and the equipment on board required that this group take an hours commute to the other side by car. 

Logistically, the previous night it was decided to assign:

Farallon: UGirona/Sparus
Rodman 800: UPorto/Seacon (2)
Sorell: UPCT/AEGIR & Vilanova/Guanay ll + 1 RHIB
1 backup RHIB and divers on standby at Puerto Maestre

Each of boats (sans one RHIB) had a SPOT tracker in lieu of an AIS marker, so their tracks could be visualized on MBARI's ODSS system (one problem we discovered belatedly, was that the SPOT updates (at 20 minutes) were slow for these fast moving boats in a small area). 

First out at sea on the fast Rodman was the UPorto team with the 2 Seacons (one as backup). Following them was the UGirona group with the Sparus. The latter deployed just off the harbor mouth while the Porto team went further south. The UPCT and Vilanova teams meanwhile split between the Sorell and the accompanying RHIB once Guanayll was deployed. With that deployment, the Sorell with the AEGIR (two body system) headed further south to deploy.

In what follows we describe our adventures as co-temporal events taking place in 3 different parts (Mediterranean, north lagoon operations and south lagoon operations); initial deployments started occurring around 11.30am, a little later than planned:

Events in the Mediterranean
  • UPorto: The late morning runs with a single Seacon were pretty good. The objective was to do a north/south transect with Yo-Yo's (up and down sawtooth pattern to capture variability in the upper water column). 
    • Issues

    • Our friends the divers who had
      to work in terrible conditions at sea to
      unstuck the Porto boats propellers. Coming
      back to Puerto was far calmer to pull out
      the floating rope debris.
      • The SIM card for 3G communication did not appear to "work". Later that turned out to be because of lack of 3G coverage even if the location was close to the coast. Local wifi to the Seacon was always available with a communication gateway on board the boat; however with strong currents in the area, choppy seas and the lack of visibility with the black Seacon, the directional antenna required frequent movement on the constrained boat deck.
      • Around ~2pm, the Porto team encountered unanticipated problems with lines fouling first the Seacon and then the boat itself. In both instances the ("we are getting bored") divers were pressed into action with the RHIB standing by at Puerto.  It turned out that the acoustic transducers cable got fouled with the boat's propellor! And the cable needed to be cut. After the first unfouling, just as the divers returned, another call came from the Rodman; this time a rope had fouled the boats props! Back went the divers+RHIB; however given the pitching sea, it was hard work. The boat limping on a single engine and the RHIB returned to calmer waters where the divers were able to extract the tangled rope.
  • UGirona: Initial deployments to test the depth and the environment with the sensors turned on worked well; this was conducted tethered. With these out of the way, the vehicle was let go for autonomous operations. Over the next couple of hours the team monitored the vehicle and as it became clear that the 3 hour mission life was coming to an end, the Sparus was retrieved and the Farallon headed to the Puerto around 1.45pm for recharging both the vehicle and the teams stomachs.
UGirona team ready to head out to sea.
Heading out on the channel with Sparus.
Programming for launch.

By the time both the Porto and Girona folks made it to Puerto, the winds had picked up substantially. And it was decided to call it a day. However we were unable to cross the lagoon back to the operations base at CAR because of the winds. Only around 7pm with darkness setting in, were all the folks in the Puerto (now including a bunch of volunteers and all the AUVs) headed back via land and by boat. The divers went their way (to classes) happily tired but feeling 'productive'.
Events in the Mar Menor lagoon:

Pulling together for the complex task of
hoisting two heavy vehicles on the Sorell.
Deploying the Gunay with the Cartagena
vehicle still on board the Sorell.
Recovering the Guanay with the
help of the RHIB and divers.
  • Vilanova/SARTI: The Vilanova robot, Guanay, was asked to take surface salinity measurements inside Mar Menor near by the Puerto harbor. Note that the vehicle is unusual in that its nominal operations are on the surface followed by periodic profiles in the water-column. The initial deployment had issues due to a software configuration error that caused the unexpected immersion of the vehicle. RHIBs and scuba divers were called in to hunt for the vehicle. Post-recovery, the salinity surface measurements were successfully taken until batteries were depleted. Recovery and return to Puerto followed.
    • Issues
      • Control algorithms on the vehicles needed to be updated.
      • The vehicle was unable to take vertical profiles.

The arduous task of launching the
two-body UPCT vehicle.
Part 1, the energy generator launched
for the UPCT vehicle.
Part 2, the actual vehicle with sensors
and CPU launched from a slide.
Finally, both in the water undergoing
dive tests.
Javier Busquets in the water trying
to get the vehicle back onto a
pitching boat.
  • UPCT: The two body UPCT vehicle had an eventful deployment. Being on the Sorell along with Guanay ll, required some maneuvering. The Vilanova team followed the Sorell; close to the mouth of the channel on the inner side of the lagoon. After deploying Guanay, the UPCT team headed south in the lagoon to launch the AEGIR. Initial tests confirmed that the Inertial Nav and the science payload were not reachable. During the launch it was later learned that the steep angle of decent the subsequent entry of the vehicle jarred connectors. Despite this hiccup, the vehicle managed to stay in the water for more than 45 minutes; science data was however not being recorded. As the winds picked up, it became clear that operations were not only precarious, but unnecessary given the lack of data. Around 12.30pm it was decided to retrieve the vehicle and turn to Puerto Maestre. In the process of retrieval however, the vehicle hit the side of the boat and a prop fairing got damaged.
    • Issues
      • As this was an early deployment of the vehicle, further launch/recovery training was necessary for the team.
      • The two body system has its strengths, but operationally is hard to accomodate with other vehicles.
The very quiet control room at Puerto Maestre.
Situational awareness was a problem.
End of the the day debrief at CAR.

Events of the day in Video

Wed Nov 2 prep/workshop

Post workshop visitors at the static
Javier Gilabert interacting with
the media
Visitors observing night time UPorto
tele-operation at the dock
UGirona Sparus AUV undergoing
dock side tests
The UGirona Saurus team doing
vehicle checks
Joao Sousa of UPorto describing his
vehicle to David Ribas of UGirona while
others look on
UPorto's Seacon undergoing tests

Wednesday was meant to be a day to get things in shape and get together with a small group of visitors including local functionaries and university folks who have supported the experiment. A brief workshop was organized with support from PROTECMA. Each team in the exercise spoke about their contribution or vehicle following a brief welcome from the Chancellor of the Univ. of Cartagena. After the workshop all participants especially visiting media went to the dock to check out the vehicles. UPorto's vehicle was deployed in the harbor and tele-operated for the benefit of the viewers, while others showed theirs on static display.

Events of the day in Video

Translated to the Spanish

El miércoles se destinó a rematar los preparativos y a recibir a un pequeño grupo de visitantes compuesto de funcionarios locales y gente de la universidad que han apoyado el experimento. Durante el breve workshop organizado con el apoyo de PROTECMA, y tras el mensaje de bienvenida del Rector de la Universidad de Cartagena, cada equipo participante describió sus vehículos así como su rol en el experimento. Luego, todos los participantes y los medios de comunicación se desplazaron hasta el muelle para una primera toma de contacto con los vehículos. El vehículo de UPorto fue desplegado para demostrar sus capacidades ante la audiencia mientras que el resto fueros expuestos estáticamente.

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Tue Nov 1 prep

UPorto Team setting up Seacon Comms
Tuesday Nov 1 turned out to include a lot of work. The UPorto team arrived on the CAR premises with their two Seacon AUVs. The first challenge was to ensure its 3G comm was able to operate in Spain and have access to SMS. In the event of an emergency, the vehicle's controller would then be able to send an SMS message home giving its Latitude/Longitude for geo location.

Deployed small buoy

UPCT Undergraduate Naval Engineering
students deploying a buoy in the Mediterranean

The UPCT team meanwhile was busy from very early in the day deploying a buoy north of the operating area to seed the ROMS Ocean Model. The team also returned with some Mediterranean water for CTD calibration. Others meanwhile worked at the CAR dock to ensure their launch & recovery system for the PLUTO AUV was working by practicing small boat deployment.

A small army of volunteers forms the
backbone of the experiment
(L to R) Napoli, Kanna, Irene & Unknown
Others helped to deploy markers for testing the small AUVs from Porto even as a steady stream of visitors came by curious to see what the fuss was all about with these funny looking vehicles.

Curious visitors getting the dig on the
science and engineering

Kanna helping deploy markers
in the CAR harbor
Translated to the Spanish

El martes 01 de noviembre resultó ser un día de mucho trabajo. El equipo de UPorto llegó al CAR con sus dos AUV Seacon. La primera tarea consistió en la configuración de su sistema 3G para la operación en territorio español y asegurar así la comunicación via SMS. En caso de emergencia, el vehículo sería capaz de enviar su latitud /longitud mediante un mensaje SMS a la estación base.
Por su parte, el equipo de la UPCT dedicó la mañana al despliegue de una boya al norte de la zona de trabajo con el objetivo de capturar datos para el modelo oceánico ROMS. El equipo también volvió con un poco de agua del Mediterráneo para la calibración de los CTDs. Mientras tanto en el muelle del CAR, otros miembros del equipo analizaban el procedimiento para el lanzamiento y recuperación del AUV PLUTO desde un pequeño bote.
Otros ayudaron a desplegar las boyas para delimitar la zona de pruebas para los pequeños AUVs de Porto, mientras un flujo constante de visitantes se acercaban para curiosear.

Monday, 31 October 2011

Mon Oct 31st prep

Puerto Mestre harbor control
Canal connecting to the survey area
A number of us inspected the CAR launch facilities, as also those of Puerto Maestre on the other side of the lagoon. The first picture on the left shows the Puerto where command/control will be established daily. While there is no line of sight to the survey area in the Mediterranean from the Puerto, access to it in the form of the canal from the lagoon to the sea is right by, shown in the second image.
Translated to the Spanish

Algunos de nosotros inspeccionamos las instalaciones de lanzamiento en el CAR, así como las del Puerto Tomás Maestre en el otro extremo del Mar Menor. La primera foto de la izquierda muestra el Puerto donde el centro de control estará establecido cada día. Si bien no existe una buena visión de la zona de estudio del Mediterráneo desde el Puerto se puede acceder a ella correctamente desde la laguna al mar a través del canal, el cual se puede ver en la segunda imagen.