Smart Machines Exploring the World Oceans

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While we are celebrating space exploration and contemplating life on Mars, did you know that more than 80% of the world’s oceans have not been explored yet? The oceans carry numerous species that are yet to be discovered, but their exploration is expensive and sometimes dangerous. However, the robotics industry and artificial intelligence are making the process much more accessible and affordable.

Underwater robots can be divided into four categories, as follows:

  1. Human Occupied Vehicles (HOVs); these vehicles are designed to allow scientists to directly explore oceans at great depths that they could not otherwise withstand by diving. They are more difficult to construct as they have to accommodate humans, but they have some benefits over other types, such as directly visualizing the area and obtaining samples.
  2. Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUVs); these robots can be programmed and used without direct human supervision. Some of these robots relay their information to operators or satellites.
  3. Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROVs); these robots allow scientists to explore the ocean remotely. They are usually connected to a ship by a cable or tether to allow relay of signals, and are equipped with cameras to visualize the sea and samplers to obtain samples from underwater.
  4. Hybrid Remotely Operated Vehicle (HROVs); these robots can operate like AUVs, or they can be attached to ships and controlled by scientists onboard to help them carry out experiments in the ocean like ROVs.

Here are a few examples of the underwater vehicles helping us uncover the mysteries of the deep blue sea:

  1. The Crabster CR200:

The Korea Research Institute of Ships and Ocean Engineering (KRISO) has developed this robot in the form of a huge crab, which can dive up to 200 meters. This robot can take samples from the sea floor and allow scientists to retrieve and study them.

  1. Ocean One:
This robot simulating a human was developed initially by robotics expert Professor Oussama Khatib and his team at Stanford University, to help explore the deep-sea corals in the red sea. The robot can dive at large depths allowing the exploration of areas divers cannot. What makes this robot special is that it uses a visual-haptic interface, which allows the scientist controlling the robot to see and virtually feel the same sensations as the robot does under water.

  1. Robotuna:

This robot was developed by a team of scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). It was built using the concept of biomimicry where scientists studied the efficient movements of the tuna fish while swimming and tried to replicate its movement in this robo-tuna. The robot help explore areas underwater that are difficult to reach in addition to surveillance of ships and harbors.

  1. Alvin:

Alvin is a HOV that allows scientists to go on board and dive under great depths. The vehicle is fitted with robotic arms that help in taking samples from the sea floor.

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In addition to robots, scientists are now using satellite imaging to help map oceans and detect sea surface height and temperatures. The revolution in robotics will allow us to further explore the oceans more affordably without putting humans at risk, and hopefully help preserve the climate.

References

americanscientist.org
fastcompany.com
khatib.stanford.edu
oceanexplorer.noaa.gov
natureasia.com
smithsonianmag.com
spectrum.ieee.org
spectrum.ieee.org
/automation
whoi.edu

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