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We examine the problem of utilizing an autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) to collect data from an underwater sensor network. The sensors in the network are equipped with acoustic modems that provide noisy, range-limited communication. The AUV must plan a path that maximizes the information collected while minimizing travel time or fuel expenditure. We propose AUV path planning methods that extend algorithms for variants of the Traveling Salesperson Problem (TSP). While executing a path, the AUV can improve performance by communicating with multiple nodes in the network at once. Such multi-node communication requires a scheduling protocol that is robust to channel variations and interference. To this end, we examine two multiple access protocols for the underwater data collection scenario, one based on deterministic access and another based on random access. We compare the proposed algorithms to baseline strategies through simulated experiments that utilize models derived from experimental test data. Our results demonstrate that properly designed communication models and scheduling protocols are essential for choosing the appropriate path planning algorithms for data collection.
Date of Publication: June 2012