Robotic Submarine Running Debian Wins International Competition
October 8th, 2009
This August, a team of 35 undergraduate students from Cornell University sank the competition at the 12th annual Autonomous Underwater Vehicle Competition, sponsored by the Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems International and the Office of Naval Research. The competition takes place in a large acoustic testing pool operated by the US Navy SPAWAR Systems Center. It calls for entries to pass through a gate, follow a path, ram a submerged buoy, fire through a square target with small torpedoes, drop markers into bins containing simulated targets, recover a PVC target and surface through an octagon shape, all without human intervention. The Cornell Autonomous Underwater Vehicle Team (CUAUV) took first place by completing the entire course at the competition, a feat not seen since MIT won in 2002. This was Cornell's first victory since 2003.
Cornell's vehicle, named
Nova, runs a custom software stack on top of
a single board computer running Linux and relies heavily on Debian.
Debian works amazingly well for us, said Benjamin Seidenberg, CUAUV's
new software team leader.
Not only do we use it on the vehicle, we also
run it on the computers in our lab and our servers, and use it to
develop our custom electronics. Seidenberg, who also handles IT issues
for the team, said that they consolidated on Debian three years ago.
When I joined the team, we had computers running Windows XP, Windows
Server, Debian, Ubuntu, FreeBSD and Gentoo. Now we've settled on Debian
for the sub and the servers; our lab workstations dual boot Debian and
Windows. It's a lot easier to manage, and it's great to be able to
develop in the same environment that the submarine runs.
The team also uses other open source software on their vehicle such as OpenCV for image processing and libdc1394 for video capture. According to Arseney Romanenko, another member of the software team, these libraries are essential for doing vision processing in an embedded environment; they are fast and lightweight which translates into significant power savings.
The Debian Project was founded in 1993 by Ian Murdock to be a truly
free, community project. Since then the project has grown to be one of
the largest and most influential open source projects. Over three
thousand volunteers from all over the world work together to create and
maintain the software included in Debian. Translated into over 30 languages, and
supporting a huge range of computer types, Debian calls itself the
universal operating system.
The Cornell University Autonomous Underwater Vehicle team is a group of about 35 undergraduate students at Cornell University who design and build autonomous underwater vehicles for research purposes and to compete in the AUVSI Underwater Vehicle competition. More information, including information on sponsoring the team, is available at their website, www.cuauv.org.