Playing with Drones

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This summer, I worked for Liquid Robotics, a company based in Sunnyvale, California whose goal is to instrument the ocean. Their product, the Wave Glider, is an unmanned ocean-going drone that can collect data for many applications, including biological research, military, seismic, fishing, and oil and gas. This drone generates power from solar and wave sources, allowing the Wave Glider to travel for months at a time without mechanical assistance. Sending out a fleet of Wave gliders is much cheaper than hiring a human-operated boat. It’s quite an incredible machine with a lot of potential.

Wave Glider on the Ocean’s Surface (Image from AUVAC)

My project involved obstacle avoidance. The Wave Glider is currently unaware of islands, and I wrote scripts to process bathymetry data into obstacles that mark unsafe areas, and modified the robot’s operating system to process these obstacles and use them when generating the robot’s path. I used multiple algorithms and data structures to decrease the processing time, as thousands of islands can take a while to process. By working for the best in the business, Dr. James Gosling, I greatly improved my Java skills and learned about integrating code with previously existing systems. It was a fantastic experience and I can’t wait to see what the Wave Glider does next.

You can view an overview of my project here.