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Robotics Technology

Chainsaw-wielding Robotic Submarine 322

merryprankster writes "New Scientist is running a story about Sawfish, a chainsaw-wielding robotic submarine used as an underwater lumberjack. There are some 200 million trees thought to be standing on the floor of hydropower reservoirs worldwide. Sawfish attaches airbags to, and cuts around 9 trees an hour - the trees then float to the surface for collection. Cue the jokes about robotic high heels, suspenders and a bra."
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Chainsaw-wielding Robotic Submarine

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  • Old growth lumber (Score:5, Insightful)

    by BWJones ( 18351 ) * on Thursday March 25, 2004 @09:05PM (#8674846) Homepage Journal
    So, besides the cool tech issues, and clearing waterways of obstructions, the big deal here is that almost all of the old growth forests are gone. It is nigh impossible to find lumber that has grown slow and does not have knots in it anymore. In fact, Aladdin homes used to advertise back in the 20's and 30's that they would pay you a dollar for every knot you were able to find in the lumber they used to construct your home, but now....

    At any rate, this old growth wood that is at the bottom of lakes and rivers has become quite prized for high end furniture, musical instruments and other applications where modern lumber does not cut it (*Snicker*), so developing robotics like this should have quite the payoff.

    • Hey if it's old growth at least any project to cut it down will have Bush's support!
      • by Stiletto ( 12066 ) on Thursday March 25, 2004 @09:12PM (#8674902)

        Well of course the Bushes support cutting down tall trees. They crowd out all the sunlight...

        • The Trees []

          There is unrest in the forest,
          There is trouble with the trees,
          For the maples want more sunlight
          And the oaks ignore their pleas.
          The trouble with the maples,
          (And they're quite convinced they're right)
          They say the oaks are just too lofty
          And they grab up all the light.
          But the oaks can't help their feelings
          If they like the way they're made.
          And they wonder why the maples
          Can't be happy in their shade.
          There is trouble in the forest,
          And the creatures all have fled,
          As the maples scream Opp
    • by bkhl ( 189311 ) <> on Thursday March 25, 2004 @09:19PM (#8674980)
      Also, they are a must-have for any Bond villain.
    • So where is the photo of the Chainsaw-wielding Robotic Submarine?!?
    • This isn't new, either. There have been operations [] going on to recover a lot of timber from Lake Superior, among others.

      There is a lot of well-preserved old-growth timber in these places that is economically worth logging.

      Somewhere around here I have a couple photocopies of those old Aladdin advertisements :)

    • Re:Old growth lumber (Score:5, Informative)

      by _Sharp'r_ ( 649297 ) <> on Thursday March 25, 2004 @09:49PM (#8675210) Homepage Journal

      Right, because after all, the U.S. Agriculture Department says [] America has 749 million acres of forestland. In 1920, we had 735 million acres of forest.

      Only 7% of current U.S. forestland has been planted by man, so I suppose that only leaves 687 million acres of old growth forest. Yep, sure sounds like it's almost all gone.
      • Hey! (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward
        That's not old-growth forest; that's just "forest". Huge difference.

        For all I know you went from 735 million acres of old-growth forest in 1920 to 749 million acres of the modern spongy fast-grown pine now.

        My house (in Canada) is 75% old-growth pine. I cannot find any knots in the old stuff, and it's about as hard as granite, while the new stuff is like sponge. I've had to drill holes through the old-growth joists, and the the spade drill just about glows red by the time it's made its way through the

      • by fm6 ( 162816 ) on Thursday March 25, 2004 @10:18PM (#8675375) Homepage Journal
        Your definition of "old growth" is faulty. It's not forest that has been deliberately planted, it's forest that has had a very long time time to mature. It's valuable both economically (wood that old is high quality) and ecologically (lots of genetic diversity in them old woods).

        Ever been in the Santa Cruz area, south of San Francisco? All the redwood forests look very pretty. They give the impression of hosting tons of wildlife, and being very ancient. Both impressions are completely false. The Santa Cruz forests were actually completely cut down in order to rebuild San Francisco after the 1906 quake. (Redwood is the best structural wood there is, being extremely resistant to termite damage.) But after nearly a century natural, there are as many trees as there ever were. So the damage is undone right?

        Wrong. When they cut down the forest, they eliminated a habitat, and a lot of biodiversity simply went away. It'll come back too, eventually -- but not in another 100 years, and probably not in a thousand.

        There's more to forest management than just keeping the tree count up.

      • R you own FA (Score:3, Informative)

        by thoolie ( 442789 )
        From you own article:

        "But Ross says we don't really have more forests. "We have more areas, in America, with trees on them, that's true. But we have less that are natural," he said.

        He's right that many of the oldest trees have been cut down, and about 7 percent of America's forests have been planted by man, but that still means that 93 percent are natural. "

        1. Natural != Old Growth
        2. "Many of the oldest trees have been cut down"

        n. (used with a pl. verb)
        A large indefinite nu
      • There are some pretty big misunderstandings there... First of all, very little of American forest is old growth, at least speaking from the perspective of someone from Indiana, where we have millions (around 4.5) of acres of forest, but only 2000 of those acres are old growth. And I know the situation is similar in most states, if not quite as bad as here. (And old growth is a misnomer anyway; it can mean different things to different people - there are several useful definitions for the term, and merely b
  • by everyplace ( 527571 ) on Thursday March 25, 2004 @09:06PM (#8674854) Homepage
    Finally, we have a way of defending ourselves against those damn robotic sharks.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 25, 2004 @09:07PM (#8674857)
    ...I sleep all night and float logs to the surface using balloons and a robot chainsaw submarine all day.

    No, no... too silly! Stop the post!

  • Geez ... (Score:3, Funny)

    by B3ryllium ( 571199 ) on Thursday March 25, 2004 @09:07PM (#8674859) Homepage
    All it needs now is frickin' laser beams, and it'll be the most EVIL contraption this side of Britney Spears.
  • by barfarf ( 544609 ) on Thursday March 25, 2004 @09:07PM (#8674860)
    I'm having some really weird thoughts of the Underwater Texas Chainsaw Massacre... /obvious and stupid
  • by moehoward ( 668736 ) on Thursday March 25, 2004 @09:07PM (#8674866)
    The trees that have been in cold water the longest make some of the best wood in the world. Apparently, these was/is an effort to get some sunken wood from the bottom of Lake Superior that went down with logging ships long ago.

    Great idea. Hope it's not one of the ugly big corporations that Michael hates so much that is doing it. And for god's sake, let's hope nobody actually makes an EVIL profit off of it. Right, Michael?
  • Triton Logging has been harvesting them for years by sending divers down with chainsaws and then hoisting the waterlogged trunks to the surface

    Not just suspenders and a bra, more a full on scuba gear! ooooh, Neoprene! Kinky!

    My Auction:Pan Tilt Ethernet Webcam 4 days! []
  • Like we need another enemy in the world.

    This is going to really piss off the Atlanteans.

    Where's Hagbard when you need him.

    (this isn't off topic if you have any idea what i'm talking about, so leave me alone, modders!)
  • by phonex98 ( 686395 ) on Thursday March 25, 2004 @09:11PM (#8674893)
    Sure this situation sounds like a win - win situation, but considering that most of the hydropower reservoirs are a minumum of several years old, many underwater animals have built their habitats among those submerged trees, and what will they do if we chop them down ? .. we've already made this mistake on the surface... should we do in the ocean as well ?
  • by Caharin ( 690600 ) on Thursday March 25, 2004 @09:14PM (#8674921)
    It cuts down the trees growing underwater? Whenever I try to grow trees underwater, they don't grow very well. I must be doing something wrong...
  • Old Growth Lumber (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 25, 2004 @09:14PM (#8674922)
    Up here in Vermont, some guys made news a couple of summers ago by building a homemade submarine out of welded-together propane tanks(!) with trolling motors for propulsion. They were actually making some good money by going into some of the deep ponds here, attaching cables to long-ago fallen trees and hoisting them to the surface. Since the deep water is so low in oxygen, the trees are well preserved, and after propper drying yield some excellent lumber.
  • pictures (Score:5, Informative)

    by bawb ( 637210 ) on Thursday March 25, 2004 @09:14PM (#8674923)

    Found some pics here [].
  • Triton Logging Company Engineering Page has a photo of what is presumably the Sawfish submarine.
  • Sawfish Triton (Score:3, Informative)

    by pipingguy ( 566974 ) on Thursday March 25, 2004 @09:15PM (#8674945)
    More here [].
  • by nweaver ( 113078 ) on Thursday March 25, 2004 @09:17PM (#8674962) Homepage
    Triton Logging Company Engineering Page [] has a photo of what is presumably the Sawfish submarine.

    (darn, I forgot to close a quote. /. needs a cancel feature)
  • Sub Picture (Score:3, Informative)

    by pipingguy ( 566974 ) on Thursday March 25, 2004 @09:19PM (#8674971)
    Photo [].
  • [] UK Geeks will want this
  • I think that it is quite an interesting development that we can use robotic harvesters to gather previously cost-ineffective resources. Maybe next we can go after the tons of gold dissolved in seawater. Robots are nothing if not patient...
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 25, 2004 @09:21PM (#8674999)
    Scale it down and this could be the next killer bath toy for kids.
  • a decent mascot for the Sawfish window manager [].
  • Obviously this submarine has been heavily influenced by the Best FPS Weapon poll.
  • by bfg9000 ( 726447 ) on Thursday March 25, 2004 @09:27PM (#8675058) Homepage Journal
    ... I have NO IDEA what "Cue the jokes about robotic high heels, suspenders and a bra" is supposed to mean. I feel strangely inadequate; I'm usually way ahead of the rest of you with the references to Lumberjack Crossdressing Porn.
  • Not again! (Score:3, Funny)

    by Bingo Foo ( 179380 ) on Thursday March 25, 2004 @09:29PM (#8675075)
    Is one of my favorite window managers [] going to have to change its name again?
  • Return on Investment (Score:2, Interesting)

    by stecoop ( 759508 )
    cuts around 9 trees an hour...
    Sawfish submarines for sale $750,000...

    I wonder what the buyers of expect to get per tree? If the pure profit is 1 dollar per tree minus other operating expense than it will take 83333 hours or 3472 days or 9 years to pay off the machine. Hmmm, I would rather be selling these guys for 750k than buying it and hopping for a return on investment.
    • Erm, keep in mind that the people who want trees removed from their reservoirs are likely to be government authorities, for whom profit is not (theoretically) the point of such actions.
    • by Sycraft-fu ( 314770 ) on Thursday March 25, 2004 @10:12PM (#8675352)
      $1 per tree? You're kidding right? Go to a lumber yard some time and check out prices. Then remember this is cheap wood, taken from young trees. Old growth wood is quite rare since we've cut most of it down and done a poor job maintaining the forests (planting too many trees and putting out all the fires). So old growth wood fetches top dollar. Also, old growth trees are LARGE, and most of the wood is quality. You get a good yeild on them.

      They'll be able to make plenty of profit per tree, probably over $100 each, after expenses.
    • by nettdata ( 88196 ) on Thursday March 25, 2004 @11:19PM (#8675941) Homepage
      I wonder what the buyers of expect to get per tree?

      Look here [] or here [].

      My dad's a woodworker, and he's looked into buying some of the wood for it's overall quality, and some of its VERY unique graining and colouring.

      The higher end wood was priced at over $1,000 per board foot (CDN), with the "cheap" high-end stuff being around $200 per board foot. When you consider that a single log (on average) has thousands of board feet in them, the profits are WAY more than $1 per tree!

      I wish I could find the pics of some of the finished products, but if you go here [] you can see some of the graining of the recovered logs.

      There was one 35 foot long board-room table I saw that was $120,000, and it LOOKED like it was worth every penny. It was incredible.

      A lot of the local governments are starting to jump in and try and get ownership of the underwater resources, like in Michigan. There's SERIOUS money in it.
  • One Question (Score:3, Interesting)

    by acherrington ( 465776 ) <acherrington AT gmail DOT com> on Thursday March 25, 2004 @09:34PM (#8675121)
    One question... Why does talking about a Chainsaw-wielding Robotic Submarine make you think about robotic high heels, suspenders and a bra?
  • Our robot successors will thank us for combining the best of both worlds: clearcutting and dam flooding. That's the way to get rid of the nasty human infestation keeping back cybernetic evolution through unfair competition.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 25, 2004 @09:41PM (#8675167)
    where are the endangered underwater robot pygmy owls supposed to nest?
  • I think I will wait for the Metacity Underwater robot.

    It will look cooler and be updated more often.
  • by popo ( 107611 ) on Thursday March 25, 2004 @10:02PM (#8675294) Homepage
    Imagine a dark future...

    Imagine a time of chaos...

    ...A world where the last trees lie at the bottom of vast manmade floodlands.

    OMFG we're in a bad sci-fi movie!

    (shit, we don't even need the robotic chainsaw sharks to make it scary... its scary enough already).

  • Not only is it one of the most extensible window managers around (being written in a lisp dialect), it also cuts trees underwater!*

    *: Julienne fries and sex toy attachments sold separately

  • Underwater Cypress (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Flashbck ( 739237 )
    I work at an engineering company and one of the consultants we frequently hire has been surfacing old cypress logs from the bottom of deep lakes for years now. He has made quite a profit from this and even holds a few patents on ROV's that find and cut the trees, similar to this sawfish. It is actually a _very_ lucrative idea, not to mention envorinmentally friendly since it does not cut down any of the old growth trees in forests, which would be the only way to obtain wood of this quality.
  • Actually... (Score:4, Informative)

    by inode_buddha ( 576844 ) on Thursday March 25, 2004 @10:17PM (#8675371) Journal
    this thing might just pay its own way. You'd be surprised at what woodworkers (in the US at least) will pay for old growth lumber, especially for hardwoods. Not to mention municipalties on rivers that want their shipping channels cleared out. I've seen people bid thousands of dollars for a single tree. Consider that a hundred years ago, it was not uncommon to see doors made out of a single slab of chestnut, for example; such things are incredibly rare these days.
  • Great... (Score:5, Funny)

    by pmsyyz ( 23514 ) on Thursday March 25, 2004 @10:26PM (#8675415) Homepage Journal
    Skynet will have a ton of fun with this.
  • by Animats ( 122034 ) on Thursday March 25, 2004 @11:06PM (#8675858) Homepage
    Years ago, I realized that something like this was needed to remove the old pilings that clutter up the SF waterfront.

    The usual solution is to get a large barge-mounted crane and pull them up by brute force, but that's expensive. So it tends not to get done until somebody wants to build something and can convince the city to let them. The bayfront clutter of pilings and rotted piers makes open shoreline look less attractive, which encourages "development". A cheaper way to remove that junk, even if it's slow, would be a big win.

  • by akheron01 ( 637033 ) on Thursday March 25, 2004 @11:07PM (#8675866) Homepage
    "Called the Sawfish, the 3-tonne, 3.5-metre-long, yellow submersible..."

    Yellow 'submersible'... they just didn't want to say it ;)
  • Great Lakes Logs (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Jodka ( 520060 ) on Thursday March 25, 2004 @11:17PM (#8675931)

    Companies are salvaging lumber from the Great Lakes [] also.

    from the article:

    "One area in the Great Lakes where a team of horses ... went through the ice with a load of logs ... the skeletal remains of the horse are still there, harness, logs and all."

  • by dcigary ( 221160 ) on Friday March 26, 2004 @12:15AM (#8676359) Homepage
    At my parent's lake house in Marble Falls, Texas, there is a stump in the cove that usually sits about a foot under the surface, and has caused many a boater to lose props or get holes punched in their boats. Usually someone in the area will mark it with a floater, so it's easy to avoid, but that hasn't stopped the faithful from trying to get rid of the hazard alltogether.

    One weekend while up there, I had friends of mine who are Scuba divers don their gear, and try to use a large hacksaw to try and remove it. They came back with 5 chewed up hacksaw blades, and low on air.

    About every few years or so, the LCRA will let the lake level down (it's a constant level lake, a dam on each end) so that homeowners can go out and clear out their lakefront property where the lake usually would be. Over the years we've seen folks try chainsaws, winches, fire, and even explosives to get rid of that hard Cypress stump, to no avail.

    So, to this day, that stump remains vigilant and intact.

  • by metamatic ( 202216 ) on Friday March 26, 2004 @02:55PM (#8682179) Homepage Journal
    Is it just me, or does this sound like the start of an episode of "Thunderbirds"?

COMPASS [for the CDC-6000 series] is the sort of assembler one expects from a corporation whose president codes in octal. -- J.N. Gray