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Energy-optimal path planning in the coastal ocean

Subramani, D. N., P. J. Haley Jr., and P. F. J. Lermusiaux, 2017. Energy-optimal path planning in the coastal ocean. Journal of Geophysical Research Oceans, 122, 3981–4003. doi:10.1002/2016JC012231.

We integrate data-driven ocean modeling with the stochastic Dynamically Orthogonal (DO) level-set optimization methodology to compute and study energy-optimal paths, speeds, and headings for ocean vehicles in the Middle-Atlantic Bight (MAB) region. We hindcast the energy-optimal paths from among exact time-optimal paths for the period 28 August 2006 to 9 September 2006. To do so, we first obtain a data-assimilative multiscale re-analysis, combining ocean observations with implicit two-way nested multiresolution primitive-equation simulations of the tidal-to-mesoscale dynamics in the region. Second, we solve the reduced-order stochastic DO level-set partial differential equations (PDEs) to compute the joint probability of minimum arrival-time, vehicle-speed time-series, and total energy utilized. Third, for each arrival time, we select the vehiclespeed time-series that minimize the total energy utilization from the marginal probability of vehicle-speed and total energy. The corresponding energy-optimal path and headings are obtained through a particle backtracking equation. Theoretically, the present methodology is PDE-based and provides fundamental energy-optimal predictions without heuristics. Computationally, it is three- to four-orders of magnitude faster than direct Monte Carlo methods. For the missions considered, we analyze the effects of the regional tidal currents, strong wind events, coastal jets, shelfbreak front, and other local circulations on the energy-optimal paths. Results showcase the opportunities for vehicles that intelligently utilize the ocean environment to minimize energy usage, rigorously integrating ocean forecasting with optimal control of autonomous vehicles.