Friday, March 4, 2011

A Rocky Beginning

We've had an exciting last few days exploring our sites, but we've been having some technical issues along the way. First, upon opening one of the control boxes we discovered that one of the LCD screens was badly damaged. Attempts to use it were unfruitful. Fortunately, the other display is still intact, and it does not seem like we'll be needing either soon.

At our first location, Gomerino Palace, we had some good data collection which was accompanied by some minor mishaps. When trying to use a power strip with US sockets and a socket adapter during our a we quickly realized that a US power strip meant for 120 volt sockets will not handle 240 volt sockets. The second could not be explored since the water level was not high enough. Our third cistern happened to be surrounded by a lot plants, so there were a lot of roots hanging down into the cistern. After a few minutes of driving the ROV around many small roots got stuck in the top propeller. Someone noticed quickly and we were able to get the ROV out and clear the roots off and continue.

The second area we visited was the city of Mdina, former capital of Malta known as the Silent City. Our first site was the Bacchus restaurant which was built in the walls of the city. Data collection went relatively smoothly at this location, with the exception that this was the beginning of a recurring problem with the depth sensor not reading correctly. We also were not able to get HD footage since the battery in our camera died after about 3 minutes. There was a minor hiccup with the USB ports on our toughbook, but restarting seemed to remedy that for the time being. This didn't affect our sonar measurements since it was connected through the serial ports rather than USB. The USB issues continued at our next two sites, the Mdina Experience and a third restaurant, so we used one of our Samsung laptops instead of the toughbook. There were a few communication issues between our laptop and the ROV, but restarting both the laptop and the control box for the ROV resolved these problems.

Before our second trip to Mdina we decided to recalibrate our depth sensors at a local gas station, which seemed to work at the time, but did not once we got on site at the St. Paul's Cathedral Museum, so we switched to static mapping. This is just a fancy way of saying that our robot is sitting still while taking sonar measurements. Using this technique we get 2D maps instead of 3D maps since we do not move up and down to get sonar readings at different depths. Our HD camera was fully charged this time and got some good video. Other than the depth sensor, the only major issue we had at the Cathedral and the Cathedral Museum was the fact that some of the waterways were more shallow than we had hoped for, so we weren't able to explore as easily into some areas as we had hoped for. We did get some interesting readings as we thought two of the waterways we were looking at would be connected directly, but actually had tunnels that went in different directions. Overall, we've had a rocky start, both trying to recover from jet lag and making sure our robot is working well enough to get data, but we still have a lot to show for it.


  1. Ugh, no 3D - hope depth gets sorted soon.

  2. Yeah...we're working on it. Doesn't look too promising at the moment. We're essentially having to resort to the same data collection methods as previous years =( Hoping Chris can help sort things out!


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