UROP Project

Developing a Toolset for Simulation and Operation of Autonomous Underwater Robots



Daniel Holder

Program Director UROP


+49 241 80-90695


Key Info

Basic Information

Project Offer-Number:
UROP Abroad
Electrical Engineering, Information Technology and Computer Engineering
Organisation unit:
Center for Robotics and Embedded Systems, University of Southern California
Language Skills:
Computer Skills:
Programming experience in C++ and the Qt Framework, especially GUI Programming.


Vast parts of the oceans have not yet been explored and operating underwater is a big challenge with many unsolved problems. Only with advances in autonomous underwater systems and the associated reduction to rely on human operators it will be possible to work efficiently underwater. In general, robots are highly complex systems with high operating costs, which is especially true for underwater applications. Developers of robotic systems switch more and more to simulation-based approaches to reduce operating costs and to minimize development time. The SLOCUM glider is a torpedo-shaped Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV) of huge operational range. It harvests its propulsive energy from the heat flow between the vehicle and the thermal gradient of the ocean. The glider is steered by changing its center of gravity and its center of buoyancy. It is completely independent of any internal energy supply and therefore entirely environmentally friendly. The glider’s main objectives are exploration of the oceans and analysis of temperature- and water flow characteristics.


This project targets the development of an application to simulate the SLOCUM glider and to support its operation. The existing 3D virtual reality simulation framework VEROSIM can be extended to provide this functionality. The student’s task will include the simulation of the robot’s thermodynamical drive and its visualization. Another part could be the evaluation of possible glider trajectories as well as the prediction of its final position after a long journey. Additionally, the necessity of a closed loop control for the propulsion could be analyzed and if applicable simulated. In the first place, the toolset should be a prototype, making reasonable simplifications (e.g. the hydrodynamic water flow could be simplified by a linear model). Further simplifications could be specified depending on development progress.


This project has strong multidisciplinary components that involve computer science, control theory, marine science, and physics – especially thermodynamics and dynamic systems. On the one hand, these fields offer the opportunity to focus on special components, depending on the student’s interests, but on the other hand require wide knowledge at the same time. A basic knowledge of each field is preferable.

Full Address

University of Southern California MC 2905
3710 South McClintock Avenue, RTH 405
90089-2905 Los Angeles
USA, California