Distributed Communication in Swarms of Autonomous Underwater Vehicles

Effective communication mechanisms are a key requirement for schools of submersible robots and their meaningful deployment. Large schools of identical submersibles require a fully distributed communication system which scales well and optimises for ”many-to-many” communication (omnicast, also known as gossiping). As an additional constraint, communication channels under water are typically very low bandwidth and short range. This thesis discusses possible electric and electro-magnetic wireless communication channels suitable for underwater environments. Theoretical findings on the omnicast communication problem are presented, as well as the implementation of a distributed time division multiple access (TDMA) scheduling algorithm in simulation and in hardware. It is shown theoretically and in simulation that short range links in a robotic swarm are actually an advantage, compared to links that cover large parts of the network. Experiments were carried out on custom-developed digital long-wave radio and optical link modules. The results of the experiments are used to revisit the initial assumptions on communication in multi-hop wireless networks.

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