TECH

The Weirdest Underwater Robots

Oceanographers are developing a new type of undersea robot swarm, to measure the smallest systems in the ocean. From tadpoles to lobsters to simple tube designs, robots of all shapes make possible underwater exploration in many harsh environments. Here are a few of our favorite designs, both the practical and the outrageous. 

Robolobster

Biomimicry is an attempt to use examples from nature to solve contemporary problems. and the robolobster, shown here at Northeastern University's Marine Science Center in Nahant, Massachusetts, is a fine example. 

Biomimetic robots are in principle relatively small, agile and cheap, relying on electronic nervous systems, sensors and actuators. Most important, they can take advantage of capabilities proven in animals for dealing with real-world environments.

John F. Williams

Robolobster

The robolobster isn't designed for deep-sea diving, but rather to detect and disables mines buried in coastal surf zones. Plastic antenna sense obstacles, while the claws and tail keep it stable in rough water. 

John F. Williams

Robot Swarms

Marine scientists at Scripps Institution are developing a new breed of ocean-probing instruments. They hope to design and deploy swarms of autonomous underwater explorers, or AUEs. AUEs will trace the fine details of oceanographic processes vital to tiny marine inhabitants.

Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego

Under-Ice Explorer

To explore the remote terrain under Antarctica's ice, a team of engineers from Moss Landing Marine Laboratories is designing and building SCINI, the Submersible Capable of under Ice Navigation and Imaging. In the darkness under the ice, SCINI’s 22 forward pointing and 12 downward pointing LEDs provide enough light to capture high resolution images. 

Moss Landing Marine Laboratories

Under-Ice Explorer

In the darkness under the ice, SCINI’s 22 forward pointing and 12 downward pointing LEDs provide enough light to capture high resolution images.

Project SCINI at Moss Landing Marine Labs

Under-Ice Explorer

Launching SCINI, the Submersible Capable of under Ice Navigation and Imaging, through an 8-inch diameter hole in 23-foot thick ice.

Moss Landing Marine Laboratories

The Endurance Explorer

Scientists at the University of Illinois at Chicago, along with Stone Aerospace, have developed an autonomous underwater vehicle to explore the ice-covered lakes in the McMurdo Dry Valleys. The ENDURANCE (Environmentally Non-Disturbing Under-ice Robotic Antarctic Explorer) can measure temperature, electrical conductivity, ambient light, chlorophyll and other bio-geochemical information. 

Liz Kauffman/National Science Foundation

The Endurance Explorer

The ENDURANCE (Environmentally Non-Disturbing Under-ice Robotic Antarctic Explorer) can measure temperature, electrical conductivity, ambient light, chlorophyll and other biogeochemical information. Here, the craft drops beneath the Antarctic ice.

Liz Kauffman/National Science Foundation

Madeline

Madeleine, a biologically inspired underwater robot, is helping scientists and engineers better understand the most energy-efficient way to use flippers for locomotion.

John Long, Vassar College

Tadpole Robots

The Tadros tadpole robots compete in a forage navigation task as part of a larger simulation about early vertebrate evolution.

John Long, Vassar College

Tadpole Robots

The Tadros tadpole robots compete in a forage navigation task as part of a larger simulation about early vertebrate evolution.

John Long, Vassar College

Seaglider

The autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) Seaglider is a small, free-swimming vehicles that gathers conductivity-temperature-depth data from the ocean for months at a time, transmitting it to shore in near-real time via satellite data telemetry.

Seaglider was retrieved from the eastern Pacific Ocean after operating for more than nine months, a record for underwater endurance. Over the years UW Seagliders have amassed more than a dozen years of operating time, more sea time than any other autonomous underwater vehicle in the world.

Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory/NOAA

Seaglider

The autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) Seaglider is a small, free-swimming vehicles that gathers conductivity-temperature-depth data from the ocean for months at a time, transmitting it to shore in near-real time via satellite data telemetry.

Seaglider was retrieved from the eastern Pacific Ocean after operating for more than nine months, a record for underwater endurance. Over the years UW Seagliders have amassed more than a dozen years of operating time, more sea time than any other autonomous underwater vehicle in the world.

Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory/NOAA

The Weirdest Underwater Robots

Oceanographers are developing a new type of undersea robot swarm, to measure the smallest systems in the ocean. From tadpoles to lobsters to simple tube designs, robots of all shapes make possible underwater exploration in many harsh environments. Here are a few of our favorite designs, both the practical and the outrageous. 

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