November 28, 2017
NREC Continues Robotic Prototyping Efforts to Support Mississippi River Navigation
NREC has been awarded a contract to continue efforts with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to modernize the mat sinking operations that occur on the Mississippi River. Mat sinking is an operation that is performed by the Corps of Engineers during traditional low water months for levee protection and to ensure a safe navigation channel in the river. The mat forms a protective overcoat to shield the riverbank from erosion that is caused by channel currents and turbulent water associated with river flood stages.
Currently, mat sinking is a manual process that involves four gantry cranes that move 16-block sections of mat from a supply barge across to a matboat where workers, using a pneumatic "mat-tying" tool, wire the sections to each other and to launching cables that run lengthwise between sections. As the mat is being assembled, the work barge inches away from shore to launch the mat along the sloping river banks. The current Mat Sinking Unit was built in 1948 and is fast approaching an unreliable status.
During the first phases of the program NREC developed a design for a robotic system that will automate this entire mat assembly and launching process. The main goal of this automated system, named ARMOR 1, will be to increase the total amount of mat that is assembled and launched each day. Other benefits that will be derived from ARMOR 1 will be an overall increase in worker safety while lowering of operating costs. During the current phase NREC will prototype, test, and validate the key elements of the system design.
This program is sponsored by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and is being performed in partnership with SIA Solutions and the Bristol Harbor Group.