S.O.N.I.A (Système d’Opération Nautique Intelligent et Autonome) is a scientific club from École de Technologie Supérieure in Montreal, QC, which has been designing and manufacturing autonomous submarines for 25 years. S.O.N.I.A was founded in 1999 and its members have designed a total of 8 autonomous submarines since. The club is made up of students from programs in mechanics, electrical, automated production and software.

The main goal of S.O.N.I.A is to participate in the annual Robosub event in San Diego, California. This competition aims to test the autonomy of submarines and the skills of student groups in terms of innovation by setting up various missions underwater. This competition allows, among other things, to measure the progress made during the year. S.O.N.I.A has to perform several complex tasks such as identifying obstacles, picking up and dropping objects, following acoustic signals, all without human intervention. Currently, S.O.N.I.A has supported two prototypes (AUV7 and AUV8).

Moreover, S.O.N.I.A is an undergraduate student association and as such, we believe in harmonious team work and that knowledge is best acquired through hands-on experience. Our goal is to offer an educational environment for everyone whose desire is to learn and we strongly believe in the advancement of robotics. S.O.N.I.A is a group that wants to innovate and move forward in the solutions it develops.

We always wish improving on what’s in place to make prototypes better each release. We also believe that sharing knowledge is very important and that is why we want make this project an open source project to allow other teams to innovate and develop a better sub in turn. The club already shares all of its GitHub repositories to help others teams participating to the competition or any other person wishing to design autonomous submarine.

It is essential for an AUV to interact with its environment. To do so, SONIA is equipped with sensors and actuators. These devices enable vision, sonar location, distance calculation and accurate position under water. All these parameters are then used simultaneously to achieve various tasks such as identifying an object or shooting a torpedo at a precise location. Below are the three departments working on the AUV.

Mechanical Team

The mechanical team’s main responsibilities are to devise, build and maintain parts of the submarine. Parts include the enclosure, the hub, mounts and actuators. S.O.N.I.A uses one of its most faithful sponsor’s software, SolidWorks, for the 3D conception. CNC and additive manufacturing are then used to fabricate the parts.

On the other hand, the team is constantly working on new ideas and assisting other departmens to improve the efficiency of the AUV. Finally,  performing regular maintenance on moving parts is part of their tasks.  Innovation and improvement is part of our culture at S.O.N.I.A.

AUV8 during the fabrication.

All the aluminium extrusions were manufactured using a CNC. This represents more than 250 hours of machine operation. The cross-shape allows us to increase the number of devices on a broader sufrace. 3D printing is used to fit the electronic and inner components inside the enclosure.

Electrical Team

The electrical team is responsible for developing all the circuit boards and managing the disturbance originating from the power, the heat and the electromagnetic field. The most evident challenge for the team is not only to fit the numerous electrical components in a restricted area but also to allow room for maintenance.
Moreover, that all of our boards are designed, soldered and tested in our laboratory. Engineering our own components is part of the S.O.N.I.A culture.

To simplify cable management, communication and power distribution, the team built the electrical platform around a backplane. This enables us to have all custom boards connected on one plane. Microcontrollers and FPGA are programmed by the members to process and interact with the sensors.

Software Team

The software team is responsible for developing the drivers used communicate with the 6 sensors. Once the communications established, the team receives the data collected. The data analysis is then performed using the algorithm encoded by the team. All of these are vital for the fluid interaction between the AUV and its underwater surroundings.

Software team next to the pool.

The software ecosystem is built around ROS (Robot Operating System) and Docker. This flexibility allowed the team to develop individual program (drivers) for every sensors and integrate them in bigger applications like vision server, the semantic map, the control system and the mission system.

Our concepts

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SONIA I (1999-2000)

SONIA II (2001)

SONIA III (2002-2003)

SONIA IV (2004-2005)

SONIA V (2006-2008)

SONIA VI (2009-2010)

SONIA VII (2011-2013)

SONIA VIII – Kraken (2014-2016)