Document Type



Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Computer Science

First Advisor's Name

Leonardo Bobadilla

First Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Chair

Second Advisor's Name

Kemal Akkaya

Second Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member

Third Advisor's Name

Mark Finlayson

Third Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member

Fourth Advisor's Name

Monique Ross

Fourth Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member

Fifth Advisor's Name

Ning Xie

Fifth Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member

Sixth Advisor's Name

Ryan N Smith

Sixth Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member


mobile robotics, underwater navigation, terrain based navigation, localization

Date of Defense



Aquatic robots, such as Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUVs), play a major role in the study of ocean processes that require long-term sampling efforts and commonly perform navigation via dead-reckoning using an accelerometer, a magnetometer, a compass, an IMU and a depth sensor for feedback. However, these instruments are subjected to large drift, leading to unbounded uncertainty in location. Moreover, the spatio-temporal dynamics of the ocean environment, coupled with limited communication capabilities, make navigation and localization difficult, especially in coastal regions where the majority of interesting phenomena occur. To add to this, the interesting features are themselves spatio-temporally dynamic, and effective sampling requires a good understanding of vehicle localization relative to the sampled feature.

Therefore, our work is motivated by the desire to enable intelligent data collection of complex dynamics and processes that occur in coastal ocean environments to further our understanding and prediction capabilities. The study originated from the need to localize and navigate aquatic robots in a GPS-denied environment and examine the role of the spatio-temporal dynamics of the ocean into the localization and navigation processes. The methods and techniques needed range from the data collection to the localization and navigation algorithms used on-board of the aquatic vehicles. The focus of this work is to develop algorithms for localization and navigation of AUVs in GPS-denied environments. We developed an Augmented terrain-based framework that incorporates physical science data, i.e., temperature, salinity, pH, etc., to enhance the topographic map that the vehicle uses to navigate. In this navigation scheme, the bathymetric data are combined with the physical science data to enrich the uniqueness of the underlying terrain map and increase the accuracy of underwater localization. Another technique developed in this work addresses the problem of tracking an underwater vehicle when the GPS signal suddenly becomes unavailable. The methods include the whitening of the data to reveal the true statistical distance between datapoints and also incorporates physical science data to enhance the topographic map.

Simulations were performed at Lake Nighthorse, Colorado, USA, between April 25th and May 2nd 2018 and at Big Fisherman's Cove, Santa Catalina Island, California, USA, on July 13th and July 14th 2016. Different missions were executed on different environments (snow, rain and the presence of plumes).

Results showed that these two methodologies for localization and tracking work for reference maps that had been recorded within a week and the accuracy on the average error in localization can be compared to the errors found when using GPS if the time in which the observations were taken are the same period of the day (morning, afternoon or night). The whitening of the data had positive results when compared to localizing without whitening.




Files over 15MB may be slow to open. For best results, right-click and select "Save as..."



Rights Statement

Rights Statement

In Copyright. URI:
This Item is protected by copyright and/or related rights. You are free to use this Item in any way that is permitted by the copyright and related rights legislation that applies to your use. For other uses you need to obtain permission from the rights-holder(s).