Our planet is popularly known as the blue planet with nearly three quarters of it’s surface being covered with water. We call them oceans, seas, rivers, lakes and ponds, and yet, there are regions of this part of our planet that still remain unexplored. This is particularly due to the fact that most of these regions are deep within the oceans and seas, making it nearly impossible or dangerous to navigate!
Curiosity, convenience and efficiency, being some of the driving factors in our technological revolution, has truly enabled and furthered the prospect of studying and understanding the vast aquatic system that covers our planet, allowing us to learn more about the organisms that have lived in this world for millions of years.
The rise of robotics has created the immense opportunity to study the most reclusive and fascinating organisms of the deep blue sea with its high powered applications that can breach human limitations of study. Let us check out some types of ocean robots that are employed to further our understanding of the biological world and to allow installation and vigilance for underwater machineries!
1. Remotely Operated Vehicles
These are robots that are usually tethered or attached to ships or vessels; they are carried by cables that also power it and are totally submersible allowing it to be employed in underwater research or explorations. ROVs as they are commonly called, come equipped with thrusters, cameras and sensors to allow for their movement, visual capture and feedback on the surrounding aquatic conditions from water depth to temperatures and current speed. Unlike manned vehicles, remotely controlled vehicles ensure the utmost safety of the operator by manning and controlling the robots remotely from the ship while allowing for the robot to collect extensive amounts of data for longer durations.
2. Autonomous Underwater Vehicles
Autonomous Underwater Vehicles, also known as AUVs are pre-programmed robots that are not controlled remotely and can collect data from particular locations without the need for an operator. They are completely autonomous and not tethered to the ship by means of any cable, meaning they are also self powered. They have a variety of equipment like sonar, camera, depth sensors and more. They store their data and images collected upon their return/retrieval and cannot transmit a real-time view of surroundings due to the lack of a tether. They are less expensive when compared to research vehicles and can stay in the water for prolonged periods of time. They are used to create ocean maps, discover wreckages, record environmental information and more!
3. Hybrids Vehicles
They combine the best features of ROVs and AUVs by being capable of deployments for larger areas owing to them having their own power supply whilst also having the option to provide real-time images due to the provision attaching tethers when necessary. An apt example for this is Nereus, a hybrid robot that explored the deepest part of the ocean, the Mariana Trench in 2009. This robot however suffered a catastrophic implosion years later in 2014.
4. Scuba Droids
Scuba Droids can withstand the pressure exerted by deep swimming for longer durations than human scuba divers. Their human-like dexterity allows for the careful, quick and precise handling making them well suited for extremely dangerous ocean research and or other engineering tasks.
5. Biomimetic Robots
These are robots that are designed to mimic the more efficient creations of nature by adapting and incorporating their designs into the robots to increase its efficiency. Taking a page from evolution’s million year old notebook seems wise when it has allowed the efficient stream lining of species to be suitably adapted to their environments without any difficulty. With fish like designs, these bots have a better chance of withstanding pressure and currents while also allowing research related observation of organisms without causing major intrusion. Robo-Tuna is an apt example for this category having been successful owing to their fish-like shape.
6. Soft Robots
These robots have a soft outer cover that is made of pliable materials like silicon which enables them to withstand the underwater pressure at extreme depths. This is crucial in advancing sea robotics as this reduces the bulky metallic material required to ensure that robots can withstand the extreme pressure during deep sea research. The material pliability produces a lot of benefits like increased dexterity, mobility even in cramped spaces and uneven terrain. Original inspiration for such robotic designs were taken from octopuses and Squids but even fishes are used as a model too!
Now that we know about the inventions we have to learn more about our aquatic system and in the furthering of offshore operations, we can understand how such technologies help us reveal and view parts of our world that have been inaccessible for the longest period! With these inventions constantly evolving for the better, it helps ensure that the human population can surely be kept informed of new discoveries made and important measures that should be taken to protect aquatic organisms!