Dr. Andreas Birk, professor of electrical engineering and computer science at Constructor University in Bremen, and his Ph.D. fellow, Tim Hansen, have developed an innovative method for processing sensor data that enables the creation of underwater maps in real time and with better quality than previous methods.
Accurate underwater map data is typically collected with sonars that use multiple beams in parallel. With the method developed by Constructor University scientists, it is possible to use simple and much less costly single beam sonars than up until now. "Compared to the state of the art, our approach is cheaper and produces better quality maps," Birk said.
It is based on a new form of signal processing called "synthetic scan formation." The method uses an initial rough localization of the robot to form a scan, a local survey of the environment, from the sonar data. The scan is registered with other scans, i.e., the information contained therein is used to determine the spatial relationships between them. The repetition of this process allows optimized scans with respect to their relative positions and orientations. The velocity of the process even allows to generate maps in real-time.
The scientists tested their software in the U-boat bunker “Valentin” located in Bremen-Farge, one of the largest armament projects of the military navy during the Nazi era. With their new method, which they developed in the frame of a project funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG), they successfully mapped the difficult-to-access and submerged spaces in the bunker.
Image: Prof. Dr. Andreas Birk and colleague Tim Hansen with one of the underwater robots at Constructor University. (Source: Constructor University)
Entitled "Synthetic Scan Formation for Underwater Mapping with Low-Cost Mechanical Scanning Sonars," the scientists' research results have now been published as open source in the journal "IEEE Explore." Birk wants to make his results available to broader audiences, which is why the source code is also generally accessible; industrial collaborations are also possible.
About Constructor University:
Founded in 2001, Constructor University is a top-ranked, English-language, private university, with a campus in Bremen, Germany. With its interdisciplinary approach, advanced digital learning tools and accredited programs, it equips students with fundamental knowledge, critical thinking and practical skills to build their professional career and address the world’s most pressing challenges.
The University emphasizes a synergetic and entrepreneurial spirit, offering program mentoring from top-tier professors and industry experts. Partner collaborations include the Constructor Institute in Schaffhausen, Switzerland, Carnegie Mellon, the National University of Singapore, the University of Geneva, and industry references such as JetBrains and ChemDiv.
Internationality and diversity lie at the heart of Constructor University, with more than 110 nations at its vibrant and close-knit campus community in Bremen. There, students enjoy active campus life, with access to clubs, professional networks and academic counselling, essential to their personal and academic growth.
Research-centric faculty projects at the University are funded by the German Research Foundation, the European Union's Framework Program for Research and Innovation, and globally leading companies.
The greater Constructor Knowledge ecosystem includes Constructor University in Bremen, Germany, and Constructor Institute in Schaffhausen, Switzerland. It is a provider of education services with education tools, worldwide traditional and online educational services, as well as advisory and strategic services to education customers in the fields of student recruitment, communications, and marketing support.