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Earth Robotics Hardware

The First Robot To Cross the Atlantic Ocean Underwater 156

Posted by kdawson
from the six-days-short-of-pi dept.
Hugh Pickens writes "She was at sea for 221 days, alone, often in dangerous places, and usually out of touch. Most of the time she was out of contact underwater, moving slowly up and down to depths of 600 feet, safe from ships, nets, and storms. Her predecessor had disappeared on a similar trip, probably killed by a shark. 'She was a hero,' says Rutgers University oceanographer Scott Glenn after retrieving Scarlet Knight, the 7-foot-9-inch submersible robot from the stormy Atlantic off western Spain. An engineer working for the company that made the submersible said, 'We think this will just be a precursor, like Lindbergh's trip across the Atlantic. In a decade we think it will be commonplace to have roving fleets of these gliders making transoceanic trips.' The people responsible for building, funding, and flying Scarlet hope the end of the robot's successful voyage will mark a new beginning in ocean and climate research. From its position at each surfacing — when the glider surfaced and called home via an Iridium telephone parked in its tail — researchers could calculate the net effect of currents deep and shallow. After surface currents were measured, the scientists could then make inferences about what was happening deeper in the water column. Scarlet called home to upload data to researchers three times a day. 'When we have hundreds of them, or thousands of them, it will revolutionize how we can observe the oceans,' says Jerry L. Miller, a senior policy analyst at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, who accompanied the research team to Spain."
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The First Robot To Cross the Atlantic Ocean Underwater

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  • Did anyone else (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 20, 2009 @05:52PM (#30506870)
    read "she was an hero" in the summary?
  • Drugs (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 20, 2009 @05:53PM (#30506882)

    In ten years the coast guard will spending all of its resources on locating these things because they'll be full of drugs.

  • by houghi (78078) on Sunday December 20, 2009 @07:14PM (#30507468)

    I thought the war on drugs was already won?

    Also be aware that supply and demand is standard economics. Just legalize it and then tax the hell out of it.

  • Re:Drugs (Score:4, Insightful)

    by the3stars (1030420) on Sunday December 20, 2009 @08:22PM (#30507798)
    "I think it would need modification. Would it need to be made of some sort of stealth material (or shape), to avoid sonar detection? Or is it already small enough that it would be mistaken for debris?" I don't think his point is too far out. Right now, perhaps sonar is limited to a short range and fixed or limited range/purpose platforms like military subs, but if this aquaglider technology (UMV) develops in the manor suggested by the article, I don't see why the world governments wouldn't have thousands, perhaps millions of these (or similar configurations) out there with sonar rigs. They would autonomously operate and surface once a predetermined set of conditions were met, such as the detection of enemy subs, or small man made objects coming from known vectors of transit between drug making and drug loving countries. Maybe someone with some time on their hands could calculate whether or not, based on the range and accuracy of current sonar technology, it would be feasible to 'mine' the coast of Florida with these things and get something like a 15% or 20% coverage.
  • Re:Drugs (Score:3, Insightful)

    by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Sunday December 20, 2009 @09:09PM (#30508004) Journal
    I'm sure that they'd like to; but I suspect that doing so will be considerably more challenging.

    Pretty much all the UAVs currently in use are either in near-constant contact with HQ, receiving general instructions and sending back data, or (in the case of things like cruise missiles) are navigating themselves to some terminal location.

    In the air, communication is about as easy as it is ever going to be. You have a decent shot at being able to talk point-to-point with nearby friendly ground forces, and you can always talk to a satellite if it comes to that, and most of our fancy RF tricks work just fine.

    Underwater, communication is a huge pain. Fairly high energy, low bandwidth, hard to be inconspicuous about it. This pretty much kills the classic UAV deployment scenario. This doesn't stop you from using any fully autonomous behavior, and I'm sure that there are some clever things to be done there; but they will be much harder, and potentially more limited, than what you can do in the air.
  • Re:Did anyone else (Score:2, Insightful)

    by trapnest (1608791) <janusofzeal@gmail.com> on Sunday December 20, 2009 @10:49PM (#30508512)

    I like how everyone in this thread completely missed the point.

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