SEARCH & INSPECTION ARCHAEOLOGICAL UNDERWATER CAMPAIGNS IN THE FRAMEWORK OF THE EUROPEAN ARROWS PROJECT
Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUVs), benefiting from significant investments in the past years, are commonly used for military security and offshore Oil&Gas applications. The ARROWS project, aimed at exporting the AUV technology to the field of underwater archaeology, a low-budget research field compared to the previous ones. The paper focuses on the strategy for vehicle coordination adopted within the project, a Search and Inspection (S&I) approach borrowed from the defense field (e.g., mine countermeasure – MCM) that proved to be an efficient solution also for the main phases of an underwater archaeological mission. The other main novelty aspect is represented by MARTA (MArine Robotic Tool for Archaeology) AUV: it is a modular vehicle easily and quickly reconfigurable developed in the framework of ARROWS according to the project Archaeological Advisory Group (AAG) guidelines. Results from the final demonstration of the project, held in Estonia during Summer 2015, are proposed in the paper as an experimental proof of the validity of the proposed S&I strategy, and MARTA functioning and its adaptability to the mission requirements. Even in its first prototype version, MARTA successfully played the Inspection role within the AUV team, collaborating with a commercial Search AUV. Acoustic and optical data collected during the mission and processed to increase their intelligibility for the human operator are proposed and discussed.