Ship Hull Repair Using A Swarm Of Autonomous Underwater Robots - A Self-Assembly Algorithm

Matthew Haire, Xu Xu, Lyuba Alboul, Jacques Penders, and Hongwei Zhang
Sheffield Hallam University, United Kingdom

When ships suffer hull damage at sea, quick and effective repairs are vital. In these scenarios where even minutes make a substantial difference, repair crews need effective solutions suited to modern challenges. In this paper, we propose a self-assembly algorithm to be used by a homogeneous swarm of autonomous underwater robots to aggregate at the hull breach and use their bodies to form a patch of appropriate size to cover the hole. Our approach is inspired by existing modular robot technologies and techniques, which are used to justify the feasibility of the proposed system in this paper. We test the ability of the agents to form a patch for various breach sizes and locations and investigate the effect of varying population density. The system is verified within the two-dimensional Netlogo simulation environment and shows how the system performance can be quantified in relation to the sizes of the breach and the swarm. The methodology and simulation results illustrate that the swarm robot approach presented in this paper forms an important contribution to the emergency ship hull repair scenario and compares advantageously against the traditional shoring methods. We conclude by suggesting how the approach may be extended to a three-dimensional domain to aid real-time implementation in the future.