underwater robot control, underwater vehicle control


The addition of manipulators to small autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs) can pose significant control challenges due to hydrodynamic interactions between the arm and the vehicle. Experiments conducted at the monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) using the OTTER vehicle have shown that dynamical interactions between an arm and a vehicle can be very significant. For the experiments reported in this paper, a single-link "arm" was mounted on OTTER. Tests showed that for 90-degree, two-second repetitive slews of the arm, the vehicle would move as much as 18 degrees in roll and 14 degrees in yaw when no vehicle control was applied.

Using a new, highly accurate model of the arm/vehicle hydrodynamic interaction forces, which was developed as part of this research, a coordinated arm/vehicle control strategy was implemented. Under this model-based approach, interaction forces acting on the vehicle due to arm motion were predicted and fed into the vehicle controller. Using this method, station-keeping capability was greatly enhanced. Errors at the manipulator end point were reduced by over a factor of six when compared to results from a standard independent arm and vehicle feedback control approach. Using the coordinated-control strategy, arm end-point settling times were reduced by a factor three when compared to those obtained with arm and vehicle feedback control alone. These dramatic performance-improvements were obtained with only a five-percent increase in total applied thrust.

Original Publication Citation

McLain, T., Rock, S., and Lee, M. Experiments in the Coordinated Control of an Underwater Arm/Vehicle System, Journal of Autonomous Robots, 3, 213-232, 1996

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

Publication Date


Permanent URL






Ira A. Fulton College of Engineering and Technology


Mechanical Engineering