November 24, 2003

Underwater Robots

A new generation of underwater robotic vehicles are nearly ready for introduction. The earliest versions were essentially remote control torpedoes, and the last generation were little more than undersea blimps, riding the ocean currents much like their atmospheric brethren travel the skies. The newest models actually ‘soar’ underwater using batteries and pumps to change buoyancy, which in turn provides the lift to move forward. This means that there isn’t a motor in the conventional sense, they operate in a similar fashion to airborne gliders.

"There are no new principles being invoked here. The sea is a very, very harsh environment but it is a fluid. Air and water, except for their densities, are very similar creatures," said Thomas Swean, team leader for ocean engineering and marine systems at the Office of Naval Research in Arlington, Va.

Projected missions include naval patrol, industrial inspection of pipelines, tunnels and cables, environmental monitoring (scroll down or search for 'red tides') and scientific measurement and sampling. With potential cruise times measured in weeks and months and ranges out to hundreds of miles, this promising new technology could greatly extend our understanding of the oceans.

Posted by Ted at November 24, 2003 07:36 AM
Category: SciTech
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