Haptic Shared Control in Deep Sea Mining – Enhancing Teleoperation of a Subsea Crawler

Lead: Kang Wang
2013-2014 (MSc Project, Completed)

Kang Wang graduated on this MSc project, supervised by Roel Kuiper, Tricia Gibo and David Abbink.

Abstract— Deep sea mining is currently being investigated as a possibility to harvest valuable materials from mineral-rich areas located in water depths up to 2000 meters. One promising mining method is to employ a large crawler on the seabed, remotely controlled by an operator on the supporting vessel. Controlling such a vehicle is expected to be difficult due to  unpredictable seabed conditions and limited situation awareness of the operator. In addition, the optimal human-machine  interface for controlling the crawler is yet to be determined. A common approach in marine operation is to automate the task as much as possible, leaving the operator in a supervisory role. An alternative approach is haptic shared control, which has shown to be beneficial in vehicle control tasks (automotive, UAVs), yielding improved performance but mitigating traditional humanautomation interaction issues such as skill degradation, reduced situation awareness and overreliance. This study aims to compare supervisory control and haptic shared control to manual control of a teleoperated subsea crawler. A simulator was constructed, including a bi-manual control interface capable of rendering haptic feedback, two virtual displays showing primary
and secondary task-related information, a mathematical model simulating the dynamics of the slow vehicle, and unpredictable soil properties of the seabed. In a human factor experiment, subjects (n=12) controlled the simulated crawler to complete normal steering, repeated obstacle avoidance, and an unexpected slip event at the end; all with manual control, haptic shared control and supervisory control. During normal steering between obstacles, both haptic shared control and supervisory control improved subjects’ performance and supervisory control allowed a significant decrease in control effort. However, during slip recovery and obstacle avoidance, supervisory control appreciably reduced subjects’ situation awareness. Therefore haptic shared control is a promising approach to assist the operator in underwater teleoperation with improved task performance but not the side-effects from the automation.

MSc project


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