The Spray Glider autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) from Bluefin Robotics is designed for oceanography and other types of scientific research, as well as environmental monitoring. A deep diving, buoyancy-driven robot, the Spray Glider collects water column data profiles using a pumped, conductivity-temperature-depth sensor and other instruments. Antennas embedded in the wings provide communications. Unlike most AUVs, the Spray Glider's passive wings facilitate forward motion through the water, letting it use far less energy than AUVs driven by propellers. It varies buoyancy with a hydraulic pump and changes its attitude by shifting internal battery packs for pitch and roll. Its maximum dive depth is 1,500 meters. A single set of batteries can power it for deployments of up to six months or 4,800 kilometers. The Spray Glider was originally developed at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. (Source: Bluefin Robotics)
Beth. when I looked at the details--as much as Festo will give--of their jellyfish and penguin robots I was stunned at the quality of the design. Perhaps I shouldn't have been: Festo is known for quality and clearly good design is required for underwater robots, especially autonomous ones. Their utility, at least for surveillance-type apps, seems pretty clear.
Chuck, I agree--they look so vulnerable, yet are surprisingly rugged. In fact, Liquid Robotics has just formed a separate joint venture company with Schlumberger for oil & gas exploration and production services: http://liquidr.com/files/2012/06/Schlumberger_LiquidRobotics_Joint_Venture.pdf
Ann, it would be wonderful to see the military engage in formal tech transfer programs like the national labs do. The labs have programs to send their R&D out to start-ups -- usually start-ups runs by former lab researchers. It's a great idea to make the taxpayer-financed research available to entrepreneurs. Robotics looks like a perfect candidate for tech transfer.