All images/graphics may be copyrighted and property of the author, creator and/or Dartmouth College.

First Free-Floating Autonomous Underwater Construction Robot

Creator: Dartmouth College

Country: United States of America

Year: 2022


Autonomous underwater construction system with active ballasting, capable of building structures with cement blocks.

Status: Prototype, Research

Operation: Autonomous

Robot Type / Domain: Research, Building & Construction

Tasks: Cement block transport, Autonomous underwater construction, Active ballast

Whimsical Intro (by addoobot)

Building below the waves! Imagine waking up with a sea view from every window—not just outside, but also below and above. Robots like this are paving the way to make living in an underwater Atlantis more than just a dream!

Learn More

Diving Deep: The Future of Robotic Underwater Construction

Imagine a world where robots can effortlessly build various underwater infrastructures, such as foundations for offshore wind farms, entirely on their own without human intervention. Thanks to this project, we are taking a considerable step towards making this a reality. Researchers have introduced an autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) that carries out construction work using cement blocks.

Energy-Efficient Robotic Underwater Construction

Having a robot that builds structures and handles heavy materials underwater can be energy-intensive. However, this is no ordinary robot, it’s a fully independent system that can adjust its buoyancy (think of it as an underwater balloon that can inflate or deflate to either sink or float) to handle heavy materials underwater. To manage its buoyancy, the AUV stores compressed air in tanks similar to those used for scuba diving.

The ability of the robot to blend the right amount of battery power with fine-tuned buoyancy allows it to lift and move heavy blocks efficiently. Thus, this AUV is well-suitable for constructing larger structures under the sea without needing a ton of energy.

Clever AUV Construction Techniques

The real magic lies in the design of the manipulator and the utilization of special cement blocks. 

These cement blocks are designed to fit together despite some misalignments. This error-correcting property is possible because of the integration of cone-like inserts that help correct any misalignments during construction. These inserts are crucial for ensuring that each layer of blocks aligns correctly with the one above, leading to a stable and sturdy structure. 

The AUV also has a simple but effective robotic arm — a one-degree-of-freedom manipulator that is capable of lifting the blocks easily and efficiently. The weight of the block helps tighten the grip of the manipulator's claws; thus ensuring a firm hold that automatically adjusts to handle the object without slipping. This manipulator is also designed to have error-correcting capability, allowing it to place blocks precisely. This capability eliminates the need for complex control and sensing methodologies for lifting or placing the blocks. 

Looking to the Future of Underwater Construction by AUVs

Building underwater is no easy task, but with this AUV, we have a significant first step. Although there is still much room for improvement and development, these advancements will make the AUV even more capable and versatile for various underwater construction tasks.

Enhancements may include methods that enable the robot to move faster and better perceive its environment to adapt to unexpected changes (e.g., shifting currents or unexpected obstacles). A limitation in advancing such AUVs relates to the underwater hardware. Although there have been significant advancements in underwater technology, such as thrusters, these are still insufficient for such AUVs to perform complex tasks efficiently and be practically deployed in real-world scenarios.

Technical Specifications

• In trials: structures of up to 12 components

• Structures weighing upto 100Kg, 75Kg in water

• 4 vertical thrusters (up to 26.2kg of thrust)

Max. Payload: 12.9 kg

Max. Payload: 28.440 lbs

Battery Operated? Yes

Manipulation: gripper / hand

Active Ballasting: 3 cubic liter SCUBA tank pressurized at 3000 PSI

Manipulator: The construction AUV is fitted with a purpose designed one degree-of-freedom (DOF) manipulator.

Battery: LiPo battery to power the thrusters

No more specs to show.

Please visit the official website for more accurate, up-to-date, and complete information on this post. Visit website   External Link Icon

Comment by addoobot - Our Perspective

AUVs have been widely deployed for tasks such as exploration, inspection, search and rescue, and the like. However, there has been very limited work on constructing underwater infrastructure using AUVs. Although this project still has a long way to go (e.g., in terms of speed and handling unexpected underwater environments), its approach to the problem is ingenious and has an ocean of potential - pun intended. 

addoorable score:
We think the AUV is not yet as 'addoorable' as it could be, but it is definitely novel and impactful to the community and the research field. What's your opinion of it? share your thoughts below.

Disclaimer: For informational purposes only. The provided data and/or content are intended as references and may contain errors. We appreciate your help in maintaining accuracy; if you spot any errors, please notify us. For the most reliable and up-to-date information, kindly refer to the official website. By using addoobot and its contents and services, you agree to our Terms and Conditions, Privacy Policy, and Cookie Policy.

Thumbs Down Icon Thumbs Up Icon
0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

Select appealing qualities


Sign in to comment, reply, and more

No Comments Yet

Be the first to share your thoughts!