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Reporting period: 2016-08-01 to 2017-09-30

The project subCULTron aims for achieving long-term autonomy in a learning, self-regulating, self-sustaining underwater society/culture of robots in a complex environment: the Lagoon of Venice. The heterogeneous system we are developing consists of 3 different agent types: aMussels, aFish and aPads. Artificial mussels (aMussels) are the collective long-term memory of the system, allowing information to stay beyond the runtime of other agents. These mussels monitor the natural habitat, including biological agents like algae, bacterial incrustation of the environment and fish. On the water surface, artificial lilypads (aPads) interface with the human society, delivering energy and information from the outside world. Between those two layers, artificial fish (aFish) move/monitor/explore the environment and exchange information with the mussels and lilypads.
In the first development phase (reporting period 1), expectations of the stakeholders and scientific objectives were collected and evaluated. These Objectives led to the development of scenarios relevant for society, especially for the citizens of Venice, and scientists working in the lagoon. Furthermore, the requirements of these scenarios led to the development and adaptation of the robot types, the aPad, the aFish and the aMussel. During the second phase of the project (reporting period 2), the design phase was finalised (“feature freeze”) and the mass production of robots has started with the aim of building all 150 robots by spring 2018. One important step for subCULTron was the definition of several scenarios (test cases).

In parallel, a great variety of algorithms weere developed that are able to control this heterogeneous swarm of robots in the lagoon of Venice in an autonomous manner. The available prototypes and first robots from the “mass production phase” were used for a first test of the developed algorithms under laboratory conditions. Selected units, which had proven especially suitable, were subsequently in the lagoon of Venice. Both the “inner areas” of Venice (“Arsenale”), as well as more natural areas of Venice, namely the salt marsh areas north east of the main island, were used as test sites. The tests are ongoing and will lead up to the first test runs of the full swarm in Spring 2018.

Our Goal to increase the public awareness for and acceptance of “smart environments”, which started in 2015 with our participation at the EXPO 2015 and the contribution to the EU-funded Initiative FEAT, was pushed further by many press activities, e.g. the “subCULTron press event”, which triggered extensive press coverage across Europe.
The Major steps within the subCULTron project were the step from the developmental phase into the mass production phase (“feature freeze”), as well as the switch from test scenarios, which were the main focus during the first two working periods, to test cases that include research operations in the lagoon of Venice with relevance for the citizens of Venice. Especially our aim to investigate the “anoxia phenomenon”, which has tremendous influence on the live, industry, tourism and wildlife in Venice, will have a strong impact on both the socio-economic aspects of subCULTron as well as on the academic and industrial underwater swarm robotic research community.