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Robot Submarine To Dive Deep In the Caribbean 99

Posted by Soulskill
from the why-don't-we-make-robot-sharks-instead dept.
Roland Piquepaille writes "According to BBC News, a new UK autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV), Autosub6000, will soon start to explore the world's deepest undersea volcanoes, located in the Caribbean. Autosub6000 has a range of up to 1,000 kilometers and has a maximum operating depth of 6,000 meters. It is 5.5 meters long, has a diameter of 0.9 meters, and is equipped with a high-performance GPS unit. For these two expeditions, each close to a month long, Autosub6000 will be joined by the Isis remotely operated vehicle, which is able to operate at a depth of 6,000 meters and grab animal specimens. Researchers from the National Oceanography Center in Southampton will lead these missions. They expect that 'one in every two animals they come across will be a species new to science' once the robots reach a depth of 3,000 meters." Specifications for the submarine (PDF) are also available.
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Robot Submarine To Dive Deep In the Caribbean

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  • by Toe, The (545098) on Sunday August 10, 2008 @06:00PM (#24549863)

    There's been a submarine exploring the Cayman Trough [atlantisadventures.com] for years now.

    .
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    . ;)

  • Soon whales will be telling tales of alien anal-probes from outer space.

  • GPS? (Score:3, Funny)

    by jeffb (2.718) (1189693) on Sunday August 10, 2008 @06:00PM (#24549867)
    Wouldn't it have to be awfully high-performance GPS to work under 6km of water?
    • by EmbeddedJanitor (597831) on Sunday August 10, 2008 @06:04PM (#24549899)
      The robot will use sonar, compass and dead reckoning underwater. When it surfaces it can correct itself with GPS.

      GPS will work down to a foot or so if you have the right antenna.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by monsul (1342167)

        GPS will work down to a foot or so if you have the right antenna.

        And sooner than later, deeper than a foot: Underwater GPS patent [slashdot.org]

        Granted, will probably be used only for military applications, but would be quite cool to have one of those while scuba diving

        • by strabes (1075839)
          What happens when you dive/dig so deep that you actually pass through the center of the earth? Would it just switch over to a different satellite and say you're in China? (because China is obviously directly opposite the USA). Start a sentence with "because."
          • "Because" you don't seem to know how big the Earth actually is, I'll just explain why this is nowhere NEAR that happening. These subs are going to about 6,000 meters. The radius of the earth is about 6,000,000 meters.
            • by strabes (1075839)
              I know; I was going for Funny. And I wrote that thing about "because" because the previous sentence I started with because. I didn't mean to tell the person who replied to do so, haha.
          • by Gilmoure (18428)

            What if you're in the exact center of the earth? How does the triangulation work there? And can you use the metallic core as a gigantic antenna?

        • The GPS places a sonar station and sonar places the vehicle. A few simple calculations and you have a GPS position extended to an underwater location.
          • by scdeimos (632778) on Sunday August 10, 2008 @10:50PM (#24551719)
            The sub uses GPS for positioning on and near the surface. The rest of the way it's using inertial navigation. USL@NOC is also working on multibeam sonar so that the robot can assess its position using geologic features on the bottom (up to about 200m away I expect) for position keeping in a current.
            • by ssimmons (22842)

              The sub uses GPS for positioning on and near the surface. The rest of the way it's using inertial navigation.

              USL@NOC is also working on multibeam sonar so that the robot can assess its position using geologic features on the bottom (up to about 200m away I expect) for position keeping in a current.

              I'm not sure why they'd use a multi-beam for station keeping when they already have an ADCP (Acoustic Doppler Current Profiler) on board. The particular ADCP they're using here was made by a company I used to work for (in fact, I wrote a lot of the firmware in that sucker) and is accurate to within a few tenths of a percent and can track the bottom out to 200m.

    • Re:GPS? (Score:4, Informative)

      by MacJedi (173) on Sunday August 10, 2008 @06:06PM (#24549921) Homepage
      They're likely communicating with a surface bouys over a more appropriate frequency. The bouys then do the actual communicating with the satellites. See, eg: http://www.underwater-gps.com/uk/technology-GIB-concept.php [underwater-gps.com]
    • by loonicks (807801)
      The PDF document makes reference to its navigation accuracy relative to the last GPS or USBL update. USBL is an underwater positioning system in which the topside (boat) notifies the vehicle of its (the vehicle's) position. First, the topside's acoustic transducer pings the vehicle and determines the direction and distance of the vehicle's response ping. Using some trig and its own GPS position, the topside calculates the vehicle's position, and sends it in an acoustic message down to the vehicle. Coupled w
    • by Ihmhi (1206036)

      Why can't they just use a bob and tether? Have a GPS antenna floating on a mini buoy and a wire connected to the sub.

  • Well, I hope they debugged their image-recognition code.

    In any case, I wouldn't like to be a scuba-diver near this vehicle.

    • Re:Animal specimens? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by magarity (164372) on Sunday August 10, 2008 @06:09PM (#24549941)

      If you scuba dive to 6k feet, you're bad enough not to care about this sub. On the other hand, I hope it doesn't grab the last female of some highly endangered species that was just about to make a remarkable recovery.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Korin43 (881732)
        I very much doubt that a species with one female left is likely to recover.
        • by NoPantsJim (1149003) on Sunday August 10, 2008 @06:47PM (#24550235) Homepage
          The Smurfs seem to be doing okay.

          Gratuitous Venture Brothers quote:

          Henchman 24: Come on, they have one female servicing a large group of males. That implies a species that lays eggs!
          Henchman 21: Oh my god, you're crazy, they are so obviously mammals!
          Henchman 24: Please, she'd be in estrus 24/7 if she didn't lay eggs!
          Henchman 21: Smurfs don't lay eggs! I won't tell you this again. Papa Smurf has a fucking beard, they're mammals!
          • by magarity (164372)

            That implies a species that lays eggs ... Papa Smurf has a fucking beard, they're mammals
             
            Smurfs are therefore monotremes [wikipedia.org].

      • by aliquis (678370)

        meters, not feets.

        Better to grip the last male? You want all the females of all soon to be extinct animals?

  • by nategoose (1004564) on Sunday August 10, 2008 @06:03PM (#24549893)
    I like my headline better.
  • It really pisses the aliens off.
  • Lyrics (Score:5, Funny)

    by PatTheGreat (956344) on Sunday August 10, 2008 @06:17PM (#24549995) Homepage

    In the town where I was born
    Lived a man who sailed to sea
    And he told us of his life
    In the land of submarines

    So we sailed up to the sun
    Till we found the sea of green
    And we lived beneath the waves
    In our Robot submarine

    We all live in a Robot submarine
    Robot submarine, Robot submarine
    We all live in a Robot submarine
    Robot submarine, Robot submarine

    And our friends are all on board
    Many more of them live next door
    And the band begins to play

    We all live in a Robot submarine
    Robot submarine, Robot submarine
    We all live in a Robot submarine
    Robot submarine, Robot submarine

    [Full speed ahead, Mr. Parker, full speed ahead!
    Full speed over here, sir!
    Action station! Action station!
    Aye, aye, sir, fire!
    Heaven! Heaven!]

    As we live a life of ease (A life of ease)
    Everyone of us (Everyone of us) has all we need (Has all we need)
    Sky of blue (Sky of blue) and sea of green (Sea of green)
    In our Robot (In our Robot) submarine (Submarine, ha, ha)

    We all live in a Robot submarine
    Robot submarine, Robot submarine
    We all live in a Robot submarine
    Robot submarine, Robot submarine
    We all live in a Robot submarine
    Robot submarine, Robot submarine
    We all live in a Robot submarine
    Robot submarine, Robot submarine

  • Why only 6000m? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by B5_geek (638928) on Sunday August 10, 2008 @06:28PM (#24550113)

    Knowing nothing of the engineering involved here I have a laymans question. Why is it limited to 6km? Why can't they fill the sub with a non-conductive liquid like mineral oil, thus negating the effect of pressure on the hull of the sub? If they are carefull about the electronics that they install, they can make sure that there are no air pockets that can be compressed.

    Seems much too simple not to work, so why doesn't it?

    • Re: (Score:1, Redundant)

      by aliquis (678370)

      Obvious question: What says oil expands and compresses as water do?

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by jcnnghm (538570)

      Must have been a design decision. Subs, even manned subs, have been to the deepest part of the ocean, the Challenger Deep. It's about 11km down IIRC, and life exists at the bottom. There aren't any subs that can dive to that depth today though.

      Chances are it's considerably easier and less expensive to build a sub that doesn't dive as deep. Plus, if what you want to study is only under 6km of water, it doesn't make much sense to design for anything else.

    • I'd venture to guess that a lot of the electronics are too delicate to be able to survive such crushing pressures, and thus such a pressure-equalized submersible would not be feasible.

      • by PMuse (320639)

        Mod parent up. The hulls of manned subs are designed to maintain a low-pressure environment inside to protect components (e.g., people) that can't handle high pressure.

        In an unmanned sub, you can adopt a hull that doesn't keep the pressure out (i.e., one that just keeps out the conductive, corrosive water), but then all your interior components must withstand the high pressure. Components that deform when compressed may not be usable then.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Athena1101 (582706)
      I work on AUVs for a US company. 6000m pretty much covers 99% of the ocean floor; it's not worth the engineering tradeoffs to go deeper. And yeah, filling pressure vessels with mineral oil is one strategy, but honestly the bigger issues are power and navigation.
    • by Ruie (30480)

      Knowing nothing of the engineering involved here I have a laymans question. Why is it limited to 6km? Why can't they fill the sub with a non-conductive liquid like mineral oil, thus negating the effect of pressure on the hull of the sub? If they are carefull about the electronics that they install, they can make sure that there are no air pockets that can be compressed.

      Seems much too simple not to work, so why doesn't it?

      They actually partially do it - the PDF boasts that the lithium polymer battery pack is not housed in pressurized compartment.

      Pressure at 6km is around 60 mega pascals [wikipedia.org] which will deform titanium or glass by about 0.05-0.1 percent [wikipedia.org]. Plastics deform more, in a few percent range. This will pretty much rip apart a conventional PCB. Accordingly the submarine has a titanium pressure vessel for electronics.

      One could, theoretically, imagine a loosely mounted design [wikipedia.org] that can withstand high pressures, but it would cer

    • I can see the lateral thinking in your idea. However, it would actually complicate the engineering, because now every component would be subjected to high pressure, not just the shell. There would be all sorts of unexpected effects. The plastic in semiconductor packages would deform and damage the internals, capacitors would compress and change value, solenoids and motors would have to be filled with oil (which would result in too much frictional loss), optics paths and lighting would be filled with oil, an
    • by stevenm86 (780116)
      Certain components are already filled with oil. Most notably these are the thrusters, whose waterproof bearings cannot handle the pressure. So, they fill them with oil and put an expansion bladder on the outside. Then there are magnetic couplings, which are a whole other barrel of fun altogether.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Even if the stars aren't aligned, just poke the Great Old Ones with a nifty unmanned submarine! :)

  • by Anonymous Coward

    This is the exciting part to me. While all the talk recently is of life in space, Mars etc, the possibility of finding 'alien' life down in our oceans is realistic and has incredible implications. There are sulphur eating methanogens down there that live in water temperatures of >400 degrees Celsius, things that redefine what 'life' is. Some of these could yield new materials, new medicines, or fresh insights into evolution.

    • I should point out for people not familiar with this why that's incredible: It's a source of life that doesn't rely on the Sun in any way. Before, even the deepest deep sea creatures lived off the sun as they fed off what comes down from above -- when they're not eating each other, that is.

    • And are we certain that by us snagging them, we aren't endangering the local habitat? Or taking the female of a species that only mates once ever 50 years? If these creatures live at >500 degrees (as some have said), how will we keep them alive in the sub in order to put them back when we are done? Or will we snag them, kill thim, then inspect them, all in the name of science?

      (note: I say go for it, but thought I'd stir the kettle a little. I figured SOMEONE would have raised all of these questions alrea

    • new medicines from organisms that live at 400 degrees C, we elect you to be the guinea pig.

    • There are sulphur eating methanogens down there that live in water temperatures of >400 degrees Celsius, things that redefine what 'life' is. Some of these could yield {...} fresh insights into evolution.

      Or some of these could even reboot the evolutionary process and re-populate the planet even in case that we humans manage to screw so much up that we successfully take with us and wipe out all life forms from the surface of the planet (although it's not very likely that nothing survives whatever we manage to put out) or if a major cataclysm suddenly sterilizes all life on the surface (like a nearby gamma ray burst [wikipedia.org] destroying the eco-system and causing mass extinction).

      Looks like once you achieve "life" on a

  • I wonder if the robot is smart enough not to scald itself if it comes across vents that are hotter than its design specs. The article says some of the vents reach 500C. Lead-free solder melts at half that temperature.

     

  • Another very very cool underwater vehicle that does projects like this on a regular basis is Nekton Delta, by Delta Oceanographics [deltaoceanographics.com]. This vehicle has made over 7,000 dives around the world, including being the first vehicle to dive in the extremely salty Dead Sea. A very cool site to check out if you're into underwater exploration.
  • by Narpak (961733)
    I seriously hope they don't find the lost city of R'lyeh and awake Cthulhu.
  • by lordfoul (108260) on Sunday August 10, 2008 @09:22PM (#24551279)

    I put a ROBOTS.TXT down there last month.

  • by Shipwack (684009) on Sunday August 10, 2008 @09:25PM (#24551303)
    I wonder if there is any intention to do any deep sea reconnaissance on lost subs or sunken ships? Maybe not at the extreme 6K level, but a bit closer than that. Wouldn't be the first time that deep sea exploration was used as a cover for something else... http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/USNS_Glomar_Explorer_(T-AG-193) [wikipedia.org]
    • by thermian (1267986)

      Unlikely, the secret/disguised deep sea missions were cold war era events.

      These days, countries would want to boast about what they could do when going that deep.

      In those cases where there was a reason to keep it secret, the mission wouldn't be announced in the first place.

  • ...which is able to operate at a depth of 6,000 meters and grab animal specimens.
    .... They expect that 'one in every two animals they come across will be a species new to science'...

    However, one in four animals they grab will have a mother that is 20 meters long and has tentacles that can crush a robot submarine.

  • Good luck, Fox!
  • Why is the range so important if you have to tether the darn thing to actually steer it places?
  • That thing truly is a PROBE, or some unmanned vehicle. Submarine:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Submarine [wikipedia.org]

    So, while a submarine "CAN" include robotic vehicles, that thing is so small as to not merit being called a submarine. (It's small enough to fit up a whale's ass...) On top of that, it has a limited range, doesn't carry people, and is remotely controlled.

    I suppose anyone thinking of model/RC submarines in a lake would take me to task. But, those are MODELS, representations of real submarines.

    Just my $0.02

  • I bet they will find that Kilroy was already there.

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