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Artificial Intelligence for the Hopper Dredger

Subject: Artificial Intelligence for the Hopper Dredger
Staff Mentor: prof. R. Babuška
Other Mentor(s): Jelmer Braaksma, J. B. Klaassens
Keywords: Nonlinear and LPV systems; Modeling and analysis; System identification and estimation; Fuzzy and AI-based control
Description: A trailing suction hopper dredger is used to excavate soil or sand at sea, rivers, lakes and ports. It can be used to reclaim land from the sea, such as for the prestigious projects Palm Island and The World in Dubai or to maintain the depth in ports or rivers.

The hopper dredger is equipped with a drag head which excavate the sand using three types of processes. The first process is erosion; the sand is picked up through the flow into the drag head. The second process is cutting. Blades attached to the drag head cut the sand and guide it into the drag head. This leads to cutting forces. If the water permeability of the sand is very low these cutting force play a dominant role in the production process. To decrease these cutting forces the drag head can be equipped with high-pressure water jets. These jets fluidize the sand and reduce the cutting forces. It is then possible to further increase the production.

A dredge operators must take decisions such as when to use the water jets and give the set points to the different control systems, such as the pump control, winch control and drag head control. He must do this under uncertainty while facing a changing environment. The information he gets is limited and noisy. The goal of this project is to develop a decision support system for the operator which optimizes the production. This system makes use of available past measurements and uses artificial intelligence techniques to reach its goal. The project is in cooperation with IHC Systems and several dredging companies for obtaining data and to do experiments.

Artist's impression of a hopper dredger in operation

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Last modified: 30 November 2009, 9:12 UTC
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