March 14, 2016      

Hydroid Inc. today released the new generation of its REMUS 100 autonomous underwater vehicle. The AUV includes several improvements developed in response to customer feedback.

REMUS, which stands for “Remote Environmental Measuring Units,” is a line of modular drones that can be configured according to user needs. As its name implies, The REMUS 100 can operate in coastal environments up to 100 meters (328 ft.) deep.

Pocasset, Mass.-based Hydroid was spun out of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in 2001. It is now a subsidiary of Norway-based Kongsberg Maritime AS.

“The existing REMUS 100 was the product that started Hydroid,” said Duane Fotheringham, president of Hydroid. “Prior to that, it was built in and delivered from Woods Hole.”

“There have been incremental improvements to the REMUS family of AUVs over the past 15 years,” Fotheringham told Robotics Business Review. “Twenty months ago, we started the effort to completely refresh the very popular platform.”

“We have the advantage of a large user community,” he said. “There are over 400 REMUS vehicles operating in the field.”

“We took all of the lessons learned over the last 15 years and asked customers what they needed and what the next step looked like,” Fotheringham said. “We kept all the quality and heritage of the REMUS while incorporating new features and capabilities that our customers have been asking for.”

Hardware and software overhauled

Changes to the REMUS 100 include replacing the motherboard and CPU stack. The completely new core electronics use an ARM +FPGA architecture and consume about 25 percent of the power required by the earlier version.

“There’s a lot of technology available now that wasn’t available [when the REMUS was first created],” explained Fotheringham. “We’re completely updating the platform, which we hope will be state of the art for many years to come.”

“With a new bus-type architecture in the vehicle, we can expand with additional sensors and payloads more easily,” he said.

Combined with a modular nose to reduce drag and a high-capacity lithium-ion battery pack, this efficient design extends the potential range of the robotic vessel.

REMUS 100 AUV specs

Existing REMUS 100 specifications.

“With a smaller, lighter vehicle, we can have higher speed and longer endurance,” Fotheringham said. “The AUV is more compact, allowing for more flexibility.”

Also, the next-generation REMUS 100 has a flexible navigation suite and an open architecture. This allows users to build on Hydroid’s control software.

“With our longer-range Doppler velocity log, we have improved performance, allowing for operations in greater depths while maintaining bottom lock for optimum navigation,” Fotheringham said.

The platform uses a publish-subscribe database based on the Robot Operating System (ROS), and the new REMUS 100 has “front-seat,” for control functions, and “back-seat” for applications that users can customize for specific missions.

“Using the RECON interface, we’ve always had an open architecture,” Fotheringham said. “Users could always build custom software on the REMUS platform.”

“Now, with industry-standard ROS architecture, it’s possible for users to access all data,” he said. “Anyone can write applications and take action with that data, such as for additional sensors and advanced autonomy.”

“We’ve opened it up to the next level,” Fotheringham added. “Our core vehicle is a tightly integrated mechanical, electronic, and software system that provides reliable operation and autonomy for the vehicle. The open architecture allows end users to write their own applications.”

“Users have different purposes, and lots of applications already exist that they can use as a base,” he said.

Continuity of use

In addition, although the REMUS 100 is shorter than its predecessor, it is still 7.5 in. in diameter. This allows customers to use their existing payloads, such as sensor modules.

The REMUS 100 is keeping its name because “it’s a very well-known product,” Fotheringham said. “It’s like a classic car model — we want to honor the legacy. When you look at it and when you use it, you know it’s a REMUS 100, but with the latest technologies.”

The U.S. Navy, NATO navies, and other organizations already use the undersea drone in 17 countries worldwide.

The REMUS 100 is used for anti-mine operations.

The REMUS 100 AUV is designed to be deployed by two people.

“The biggest single use is in mine detection and countermeasures,” Fotheringham said. “REMUS started out in shallow waters, where such operations were very manpower-intensive and dangerous.”

REMUS is designed to be portable at about 70 lb., so that two people could deploy it from a small boat.

“We also have users in the academic market, like Woods Hole, and commercial customers, which use the AUVs for surveying and inspection,” Fotheringham said.

Need for speed

The flexible, compact design for the latest REMUS 100 should lead not only to longer-ranging AUVs, but also faster ones.

“We’re looking at vehicles that can go faster, which is something that customers have asked for,” Fotheringham said.

“Our REMUS vehicles were always known for their high reliability,” he said. “Bringing the electronics into a compact state-of-the-art package with less wiring should further improve reliability.”

Hydroid doesn’t list specific AUV prices on its Web site because they vary so much by custom package. Sensors and payloads are application-specific and are a large price driver.

The next-gen REMUS 100 “will be priced comparably to the existing model for similar sensor capabilities,” Fotheringham noted. “Every specification has improved in the new generation.”

“The technology of the FPGA ARM core electronics will expand to our other lines,” he said. “The tech refresh will ripple out to our entire product line.”