Goal:

Design an Autonomous Underwater Vehicle platform for future use in the AUVSI competition. This project will be under development by future senior design teams at the University of Texas at Arlington. We had a $800 budget, 5 people in the team and two semesters. Unfortunately our first semester was a summer term so we had even less time.

Development:

This is what we had from the previous team that worked on this project. After reviewing and analyzing their design we realized that we would have to throw a majority of it away. This design would never have been functional. We were able to salvage the previously purchased thrusters (not pictured) and the speed controllers that they built from a kit: This is our small cubical. Notice how clean it is even though the picture was taken in the middle of creating piles of acrylic shavings: Project management is fun. Here I have taken a page from Chip Foose’s work on Overhaulin': These are the final renderings I did in Google SketchUp prior to building the sub: See what I mean about the mess? Wear eye protection when cutting or drilling acrylic! We did not have the budget to have a machine shop create our designs so other means were necessary. I was able to cut this ‘precision’ end cap using a plunge router with a circle jig and a $50 drill press. The black part is the o-ring that will press against the main body tube. The clear material is cast acrylic: Remember, when ordering critical parts, always order more than you need. This is how they arrived from McMaster-Carr. Can you guess what one we did not use? This is my PIC circuit. I had to buy the programmer pictured here because if we would have waited until we received the programmer we requested, we would never have finished the electronics. Basically all the tools used in this project were mine. And most of the tools used by another team in their project were borrowed from us too: Here we are testing our software and electronics before mounting them inside the chassis: This is a mock up with some of the electronics and tape to attach the front dome: Here is the main body of the sub during testing at 9 feet deep. We did not have access to any deeper bodies of water. The UTA pool denied our request to use their facilities. We did not get much if any help from faculty or UTA while we worked on this project. Here we have $2,000 worth of electronics inside the vehicle as we test it under water. Since we did independent testing we knew it would work. The wiring through the end cap has not been completed at this point, I will explain that later: This is our final product. It is sitting on a stand that uses a cold cathode neon light for ‘Ground effects’. I don’t know why the previous team made this purchase, but we had them, so from the start I decided to find a use for it: The only thing stopping it from being functional underwater is the need for a waterproof connector where there are currently just wires passing through the end cap. Near the end when we reanalyzed the connectors that we had from the previous team we noticed that they would not fit our needs. (Wire density, thickness and length) Suitable connectors were located but our professor decided that we could not use any of the remaining $400 to acquire them. Since it takes longer to get a product for free, as I did for most of our parts, we were not able to get them. However the end cap has the proper diameter holes drilled and tapped to accept them when they are acquired by a future team. This is the user interface on the base station. This initial telemetry includes data such as heading, pitch, roll and leak sensor status. Speed and direction of each thruster can also be controlled: This is our final presentation. Notice the tons and tons of documentation. While I only show the cool looking stuff in this post, a majority of our work was design documentation: Can’t forget everyone on the team, this project would not have been a success without them: While previous senior design teams got away with making an easy project look difficult just to make the professor happy, or easily passed the class with the bare minimum of produced work… we worked hard, openly discussed our project, remained honest and finished with an excellent product. We only used $400 of our $800 budget plus a few thousand worth of donated parts.

The project has an official website at UTAauv.org and since I have completed my part in this project, I no longer maintain it.

Out of all the companies who donated products I would like to thank these two companies for accepting my donation requests:
Tri-M Systems
MikroElektronika