CPG-based control of a turtle-like underwater vehicle

Keehong Seo, Soon Jo Chung, Jean Jacques E. Slotine

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper presents biologically inspired control strategies for an autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) propelled by flapping fins that resemble the paddle-like forelimbs of a sea turtle. Our proposed framework exploits limit cycle oscillators and diffusive couplings, thereby constructing coupled nonlinear oscillators, similar to the central pattern generators (CPGs) in animal spinal cords. This paper first presents rigorous stability analyses and experimental results of CPG-based control methods with and without actuator feedback to the CPG. In these methods, the CPG module generates synchronized oscillation patterns, which are sent to position-servoed flapping fin actuators as a reference input. In order to overcome the limitation of the open-loop CPG that the synchronization is occurring only between the reference signals, this paper introduces a new single-layered CPG method, where the CPG and the physical layers are combined as a single layer, to ensure the synchronization of the physical actuators in the presence of external disturbances. The key idea is to replace nonlinear oscillators in the conventional CPG models with physical actuators that oscillate due to nonlinear state feedback of the actuator states. Using contraction theory, a relatively new nonlinear stability tool, we show that coupled nonlinear oscillators globally synchronize to a specific pattern that can be stereotyped by an outer-loop controller. Results of experimentation with a turtle-like AUV show the feasibility of the proposed control laws.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)247-269
Number of pages23
JournalAutonomous Robots
Issue number3
StatePublished - Apr 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Biomimetic underwater vehicle
  • Central pattern generator
  • Synchronization

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Artificial Intelligence


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