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ALEYIN, Autonomous Systems for Karst Exploration

Project leader : Lionel Lapierre (LIRMM)

NUMEV labs involved : LIRMM, IES, IMAG

Partners: HSM (Hydro Sciences Montpellier), EDF, GM, BRGM, PLONGEESOUT

The Aleyin proposal aims at conceiving, designing and engineering an intelligent and practical robotic system (i.e. Sensors System with Controlled Mobility) to explore/inspect underwater confined environment. As generic case studies, the project focuses on karst exploration and hydraulic galleries inspections. This is a major and urgent, issue for public authorities concerned by the prospection, protection and management of the groundwater resource in karst regions. Assessing the geometry of flow paths network in karst, which constrain the dynamics of groundwater and transport processes, is an ambitious scientific objective that requires field information, which may be difficult to acquire. Cave divers are heroic, but face physiological limitations.

The use of a robotic solution may induce a significant evolution, in its capacity to go further and deeper in the karst maze. This requires an interdisciplinary scientific journey where hydrogeologists, mathematicians, electronic and control scientists share the same objective. This transdiciplinary posture is necessary to achieve the Aleyin’s objectives. Moreover, the confined and chaotic conditions impose to keep the expert in the system’s decision loop during the exploration phase. He is indeed the best to decide on the system’s global and opportunistic objectives. This requires a communication link capable of streaming the current data acquisition, acoustic, or visual if turbidity allows. In the underwater environment, where wireless communication has very poor quality (bandwidth, latency), an umbilical cable is mandatory. Nevertheless, this cable is a heavy burden that is not admissible for the way back. Hence, the system has to be able to get rid of its cable, and return back autonomously. This question of varying autonomy is one of the exciting scientific issues on which the Aleyin project proposes to progress.