Abstract. Autonomous robotic boats are devised to transport people and goods similar to self-driving cars. One of the attractive features specially applied in water environment is to dynamically link and join multiple boats into one unit in order to form floating infrastructure such as bridges, markets or concert stages, as well as autonomously self-detach to perform individual tasks.
In this paper we present a novel latching system that enables robotic boats to create dynamic united floating infrastructure while overcoming water disturbances. The proposed latching mechanism is based on the spherical joint (ball and socket) that allows rotation and free movements in two planes at the same time. In this configuration, the latching system is capable to securely and efficiently assemble/disassemble floating structures. The vision-based robot controller guides the self- driving robotic boats to latch with high accuracy in the millimeter range. Moreover, in case the robotic boat fails to latch due to harsh weather, the autonomous latching system is capable to recompute and reposition to latch successfully. We present experimental results from latching and docking in indoor environments. Also, we present results in outdoor environments from latching a couple of robotic boats in open water with calm and turbulent currents.
Key words: Autonomous, Robotics, Boat, Latching mechanism, Robotic formation, Reconfigurable Robots, Swarm robotics