Saturday, November 13, 2021
Thursday, October 7, 2021
The previous rigid 3-D printed shell that was used to join the underwater WeatherBox to the main electronics box on the AMOS surfboard needed to be replaced with something flexible that could flex and swing out of the way whenever underwater obstacles were encountered.
Some inexpensive plastic tubing was purchased at Home Depot, and 3-D printed adapter parts were constructed for either end of the tubing, to join it to the WeatherBox at the bottom end and the main electronics enclosure at the top end.
Friday, September 24, 2021
Things have been busy lately, and there hasn't really been much occasion for taking AMOS out in the field. Over the last week though, I was able to develop some software for saving 30 fps 1920 x 1080 video files on AMOS, while still continuing to do all of its regular navigation and data saving stuff. Testing and debugging was done in the pool, and everything seemed to be working well.
This morning I took AMOS out to Kelly's Creek to test how the navigation, sensor data saving, and video recording all worked together. I was worried that the addition of the video recording in a real environment would slow down the other functions, possibly resulting in sluggish handling or missed data samples. Everything seemed to work pretty well though, although when I had plotted the course the night before, I had not realized how low the water level actually was. The waterline was about 10 m in from where it appeared to be on the ArcGIS map that was used to setup the course. Unfortunately, the WeatherBox that housed the camera underneath AMOS struck a rock at full speed, and the 3-D printed extension piece that connected it to the main electronics enclosure snapped under the strain. The WeatherBox was quickly flooded, but I was following close behind in the kayak and was able to turn off AMOS's power switch a few seconds later. Clearly a more flexible extension piece will be required here. Perhaps something like a short rubber hose could work?
Despite this accident, the rest of the test was a success. Depth, temperature, and conductivity data were all recorded normally, AMOS navigated itself normally, and 9 video files were recorded, mostly of air bubbles and river vegetation, but at 1:10 of the video below, you can see 3 small fish swimming by for a few seconds:
The end of the above video is where the WeatherBox struck the rock and the camera module was flooded. Unlike the last camera flooding which occurred in salt water, this one was in fresh water, and after storing the camera module in a bag of desiccant for 12 hours, it was confirmed to be unharmed.
Wednesday, September 1, 2021
Last month's assumption that the o-ring seal on the WeatherBox required improvement proved to be correct. The printed part had tiny imperfections underneath the o-ring that allowed water to slowly leak through. A WeatherBox customer who was using it to observe a muskrat underwater came up with a brilliant solution: he found that using some marine goop (ex. https://www.homedepot.ca/product/amazing-goop-marine-109-4-ml-3-7-oz-/1000183125) in the channel holding the o-ring worked to fill in the small imperfections in the plastic and create a watertight seal. I've built a few WeatherBox enclosures since then with the channel filled with Marine Goop and they have all worked quite well.
To take pictures and video underwater with the 6 foot AMOS surfboard, an extension piece was required to get the WeatherBox below the waterline. The bow of the surfboard where the camera is located is pitched upward at about a 20 degree angle, so this requires a curved extension piece. The creation of this extension piece required a couple of weeks. At first, rendering the model in OpenSCAD took days for my laptop to finish, although later iterations of the model used some 2-D optimizations with extrusions that shortened the rendering time to about 24 hours. The first two model attempts also had small gaps on the side with the largest radius of curvature, which led to leaking. Eventually a working model of the curved extension piece was created:
The extension piece was fitted on AMOS and used to capture this underwater backyard pool video:Apologies to viewers for the acting talent used in the above video. In Nature Robotics operates on a tight budget. 😉
Coming up next week is the final round of the 2021 edition of the Ocean Startup Challenge (https://oceanstartupproject.ca/challenge/). In Nature Robotics is in the mix again this year, and will be pitching on Thursday, September 9.
Wednesday, July 28, 2021
Some work has been done over the last couple of weeks on trying to adapt the WeatherBox to function as an underwater camera enclosure. This work has been educational but not entirely profitable. Some underwater tests had been done in the pool, and at the time appeared to be successful, but they were too short (less than 5 minutes) to really prove out the leak-worthiness of the enclosure.
A longer test in a real-world environment confirmed that the enclosure leaks too quickly to be of any use for underwater pictures or video. A slightly modified version of the enclosure with a longer stem was attached to the underside of AMOS and used to record a video frame every second, for a 1 hour test along the shoreline in Cap Brule, New Brunswick. The stem was not really long enough to keep the camera underwater all of the time, and the mounting pins inside this particular enclosure had snapped off, so the camera board was not properly centered. The camera software uses an auto-brightness adjustment, which I think was confused by the alternating views above and below the water.
The camera ceased to function after about 20 minutes of operation. When the boat was taken out of the water about an hour later, it was half-full of sea water. The camera board was immediately rinsed and dried off, to no avail. A subsequent test confirmed that it no longer functioned at all.
Some decent depth, temperature, and conductivity data was collected for the test, showing a nice correlation between the 3 parameters: the shallower water was warmer and had a higher measured conductivity.
Here is a video created from stringing the individual 1 Hz video frames together and increasing the playback speed by 5x. Not much to see really, just a lot of bouncing up and down and the occasional piece of seaweed:
Tuesday, July 13, 2021
This past weekend I went with my daughter to her triathlon training camp at Kejimkujik National Park in Nova Scotia. We purchased a campsite for two nights and brought the tent, her bike and other triathlon-related equipment, a kayak, and of course AMOS! While Kirsten practiced swimming, biking, and running, I figured I could test out AMOS and follow around in the kayak.
The weather on Friday turned out to be awful though. Tropical storm "Elsa" passed through the area late in the day with high gusting winds and buckets of rain. The fly on our camping tent kept nothing dry, as rain was easily blown underneath, so that by Friday evening, it was basically raining INSIDE the tent too. We decided to put AMOS, the bike, and most of the other equipment in the tent, and ended up spending the night in the van instead.
Fortunately the weather on Saturday was much better, and by noon it turned into a sunny hot day. While Kirsten was training around Merrimakedge Beach, I mostly kayaked and observed AMOS as it followed a pre-programmed sampling course. Unfortunately I had forgotten to bring a necessary cable for the depth sensor, but did manage to get some good conductivity and temperature data over a few hours:
Tuesday, June 15, 2021
At the time of this writing, our home province of New Brunswick is closing in on its previously stated target of having given 75% of its populace at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine. The achievement of this target is supposed to lead to a loosening of restrictions, although I am not sure exactly what that means. Hopefully it will mean that we will be free to travel outside of the province sometime soon. In the meantime, AMOS has been busy traveling inside the province, doing demonstrations and collecting data.
On June 03, AMOS was in Salisbury, doing a demonstration at some local wetlands. This was for a community project organized by high school students Daytona McMackin and and Rhianna Johnston. Amongst those in attendance were a grade 5 class from a local elementary school, researchers from Mount Allison University, and members of the Petitcodiac Watershed Alliance.
photo credit: Jennifer Colpitts, J Colpitts Photography
photo credit: Jennifer Colpitts, J Colpitts Photography
The wetland area was fairly challenging in terms of its topography, with numerous grassy hillocks that required some careful route planning and / or manual driving to properly avoid. On a few occasions, these were not avoided, and AMOS became stuck, requiring a couple of outings in the kayak to nudge it into an area of deeper water. Apparently the demonstration was still suitably impressive for at least some of those in attendance: one grade 5 boy stated that he would ask his parents for an AMOS this year for Christmas. 😊
Here is the temperature and conductivity data collected with the AML Oceanographic probe:
The following week I took a trip back to the Lake Utopia area of New Brunswick, to sample Trout Lake, a small lake connected to the east end of Lake Utopia. The day was very hot and humid, and there seemed to be lots of fish (trout?) jumping out of the water to grab tasty flies. AMOS collected temperature, conductivity, and depth data over parts of the stream leading to the lake and the lake itself:
The above temperature data showed an interesting "cold zone" in the southeast corner of the lake where a stream emptied into it.
Tuesday, May 25, 2021
The last couple of weeks have been quite busy getting the first commercial order for an AMOS Board Kit ready for shipment. The order came from South Korea, so the first order of business was trying to find a safe and legal way to ship the 12 V, 10 AH LiFePO4 (lithium iron phosphate) battery by air. This unfortunately consumed a number of days trying to contact local dangerous goods shippers, checking out dangerous goods shipping courses, and then trying to see if there might be some way to find the same (or a similar) battery locally. Eventually a local reseller of the same battery was found, but purchasing the battery required a Korean phone number (for security reasons?) which I did not possess. So the final solution was to simply give the customer a discount and recommend they buy the battery themselves from the local reseller.
A stock unit was mostly ready for the sale, but a fish finder (for measuring depth) and solar panel needed to be added, and some extra wiring was required. These parts arrived after about a week and the wiring was completed, the magnetometer calibrated, and the unit made ready for testing just in time for the long weekend. We had made plans to go to my parents' cottage in Cap Brule for the long weekend, but could not get there until Saturday night. Sunday was rainy and very windy, with gusts up to 70 km/hr, so no testing could be performed that day. The following day was less windy (20 km/hr) but the cold waves outside the cottage were still a few feet high and smashing against the rocks. Not an ideal location to launch a small kids' foam surfboard. Fortunately the river in town in Shediac was more sheltered, so I took the boat over there. It went through a planned grid course very nicely, although the wind and current did blow it off course a little bit in the middle parts of the river:
Monday, May 3, 2021
New Brunswick is home to a number of beautiful lakes and rivers that would be ideal for AMOS water monitoring. One such lake that I learned about recently is Lake Utopia, located in eastern Charlotte County, about 1 km northeast of the town of St. George. According to Wikipedia, it has a couple of claims to fame: it is connected to the Magaguadavic River by the second deepest natural canal in the world, and according to local legend, the lake is inhabited by a sea monster known as the "Lake Utopia Lake Monster".
My daughter Hannah and I had made plans to drive out to the lake with our canoe and AMOS this past weekend. It was quite windy (28 km/h from the northwest according to the Weather Network) and still fairly cold (high of about 12 deg C) so a route was made for AMOS that stuck close to the western shore of the lake, starting from Canal Beach, and following a circuitous route down the canal to the Magaguadavic River. I had previously connected the fish finder / depth transducer to the boat, along with the temperature / conductivity probe, and AMOS was set to collect this data throughout the trip at one second intervals.
Even in the canal, the wind was quite strong, working against us and making for a slow trip. We were a bit faster than AMOS in the canoe, so would usually canoe a few hundred meters ahead of it, then take a break and wait for it to catch up. Here we are in front of an old covered bridge on one of our breaks:
Sunday, April 11, 2021
While AMOS Orange was being repaired last weekend, I took the foam surfboard over to a local beaver pond to test out the camera software and the new AML conductivity / temperature sensor. The hope was to have AMOS get close to the beaver lodge and snap a few pictures, while at the same time make sure that the temperature / conductivity sensor gave reasonable looking data.
I turned on the boat, then rummaged around in my backpack to pull out the laptop and wireless transceiver. As I was doing this, I was surprised to hear the propeller whir into action; it had achieved a GPS lock sooner than expected. I set the electronics aside and then ran down to the water's edge to make sure the propeller didn't collide with a nearby concrete culvert. It didn't, but I tripped on some uneven ground, and tumbled into the water. It was only a couple of feet deep at the edge, but was deep enough to get a pretty cold soaking.
AMOS was off, so I let it follow its programmed route while I tried to dry off a bit in the sun. Once it got close to the lodge, it unfortunately became stuck on a patch of surface ice:
so the pictures that it took of the lodge were not as "close-up" as I had hoped for:
Friday, March 19, 2021
March winds, April showers, help to bring the May flowers, but those March winds aren't great for doing AMOS tests on the open water. Nevertheless, the forecast for St. John was decent last Sunday: overcast with winds from the northwest at 17 km/h, so I packed AMOS Orange into the van, loaded on the kayak, and drove down to McLarens Beach, just a few km west of St. John. Oddly enough, there were two other kayakers already paddling out on the water, around the Irving Nature Park. They were interested in AMOS, but as I was following the robot from the kayak in a different direction, they warned me to "be careful out there on your own, you'll die quickly if you fall in".
Below are a couple of videos of launching the boat, and having it go in a circle close to shore, shortly after the launch. It actually kept going in circles, which I believe was the result of a bug from having the first waypoint designated for taking 10 pictures at different angles. Only one picture got taken, but the boat kept going around in circles, close to shore, so likely there is an infinite loop that will need fixing later in the software. In a way it was good for getting the videos though, because I was too nervous later on in the kayak to fumble around with my phone, and only used it while still on shore.
Thursday, March 11, 2021
The last couple of days have been warmer than usual, so hopefully it will soon be time to try out AMOS Orange in some actual water. A more solid, stainless steel mounting post for the GPS antenna was substituted for the 3-D printed version that had been used previously, and some wiring was completed to add humidity / temperature sensors and a solar power level circuit.
Tuesday, February 23, 2021
It was an exciting day yesterday, as Steven delivered the newly built AMOS hull:
The orange color is really vibrant, which should make the boat easily visible from a distance on the water. It weighs about 30 lbs, so heavier than a surfboard platform, but the interior has plenty of room for batteries and other equipment, which should provide it with plenty of endurance and measurement flexibility.
In other news, we now have a distributor in New Zealand, Australia, and the Pacific Islands. The Stream Ltd. (https://www.thestream.nz/) has signed on as our new distributor on the other side of the planet. They are an environmental services company, specializing in river, coastal, and watershed monitoring.
And lastly, the AMOS Board Kit can now be found on RobotShop's Canadian and US websites (https://www.robotshop.com/ca/en/amos-board-kit.html). (Product photos provided by Moments By Kassie: https://www.facebook.com/momentsbykassie).
We're always trying to spread the word about AMOS; if you have any good ideas, or would like to help out, please contact us!