This project addresses fundamental questions on how to select the optimal locations to collect observations and how to ensure that the sensor platforms travel to these locations along informative paths in an expansive, dynamic process such as the ocean. The significance of the proposed research lies in the observation that climate processes occur on long time scales. Understanding these processes requires a combination of ocean models and observations, which can be collected over large space-time volumes by fleets of high-endurance autonomous submarines that steer intelligently to maximize the utility of their measurements. Underwater vehicles that sample the ocean interior are important for understanding ocean processes in general, because -- unlike weather prediction in the atmosphere -- the subsurface ocean environment is difficult to sample remotely. Thus, the long-term goal of this project is create new path-planning strategies for unmanned, mobile sensor platforms to measure information-rich but undersampled dynamic processes in the ocean. Indeed the methods developed in this project will be readily transferrable to operational data assimilation systems.
The specific objective of the research is to apply tools from data assimilation, nonlinear control, and dynamical systems theory to design sampling trajectories for accurate estimation and prediction of circulating ocean currents represented by a system of vortices. This is a three-year, $504K grant. Read more.