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Altshuler, R. C., Boyden, E. S., Chase, C. C., Davis, B. M., Delatorre, F. J., Edelson, J., Elgart, J. D., Gates, H. G., Hancher, M. D., Hasan, L. M., Huang, A. S., Knaian, A. N., Lee, F., Newburg, S. O., Polito, B. F., Reynolds, M. S., Smith, E. D., Warmann, E. C., The ORCA-1: An Autonomous Underwater Vehicle.

The ORCA-1: An Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (1998)


We have designed and are building the ORCA-1, a fully autonomous submarine, to enter in the First Annual International Autonomous Underwater Vehicle Contest.

The vehicle is designed for efficient, high-speed, reliable operation in shallow water. It is 1.4 m long and has a mass of 48 kg. It has a hydrodynamic design and modular construction. Side-mounted thrusters are used to drive and differentially turn, and vertically mounted thrusters are used to dive and pitch. The vehicle has a slight (approx. 2%) positive buoyancy, and is held at depth by the vertical thrusters.

ORCA-1 images surroundings its using a forward-looking and a bottom-looking sonar array, and uses a compensated inertial navigation system implemented as a Kalman filter to determine its absolute position at all times. A water pressure depth sensor, a magnetic compass, a fluid inclinometer, and a set of impeller velocimeters round out the vehicle's sensor array.

ORCA-1 is powered by a 420 watt-hour sealed lead-acid gel-cell battery, and can operate at its top speed of 3 m/s for 1.5 hours on a single charge. The vehicle is controlled by an onboard 586-class computer running the Linux operating system.

We built the ORCA-1 for a relatively low cost ($5000) by modifying retail products wherever practical rather than buying OEM modules or building custom-designed systems. With our modular design and redundant sensor array we believe that we have a design for a vehicle that can accomplish the mission "Better, Cheaper, Faster."

Copyright © 1995-present, Ed Boyden