Carnegie Mellon University

Mat sinking operations of the National Robotics Engineering Center (NREC).

February 10, 2017

NREC initiates robotic prototyping to support Mississippi River navigation

NREC has begun working 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. 


NREC is developing a robotic system prototype that will automate this entire mat assembly and launching process. 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. 


The main goal of this automated system will be to increase the total amount of mat that is assembled and launched each day. Other benefits that will be derived from the system will be an overall increase in worker safety while lowering of operating costs. 


This program is sponsored by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and is being performed in partnership with TerranearPMC.