Many robots designed to operate on or in water are destined to serve in military, naval, and homeland security capacities. Others are aimed at scientific exploration and data gathering, such as monitoring marine ecosystems and gathering data about water quality. Some of the plainer ones are remotely operated vehicles (ROVs), underwater unmanned vehicles (UUVs), or autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs): the naval versions of their unmanned ground vehicle (UGV) and unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) counterparts. Others look like fish, jellyfish, or submarines.
Whether they navigate the salty seas or fresh water lakes, rivers, or oceans, many models can do a number of different types of tasks, depending on their payloads. Robots made to work in water are usually designed to be either remote-controlled or autonomous, and some can even switch from one mode to another.
Click on the image below to see 12 of these underwater workers.
The Serpent remotely operated vehicle (ROV) from Seaview Systems is designed for exploring very small-diameter pipelines. It can investigate conduits as small as 9 inches (23 cm) in diameter, and fit around bends with a radius as narrow as 27 inches (68.5 cm). Measuring 9 inch x 9 inch x 57 inch (23 cm x 23 cm x 145 cm) and weighing 70 lb (32 kg), the Serpent runs on two 300W brushless DC motors that give it a total forward thrust of 18 lb (8 kg). With a 0.5 inch (1.3 cm) diameter fiber-optic tether, it can explore as far as 6,000 ft (1,830 m) down a pipe or tunnel. A 360-degree pan/orbit/zoom color camera and two color cameras are included, along with two 70W high-intensity LEDs. The robot also has heading, pitch and roll, and depth sensors, as well as sonar. A fiber-optic telemetry system provides up to three video channels, four RS232 channels, and two RS485 channels. (Source: Seaview Systems)
Nice slideshow Ann. Quite a wide range of differences in structure. It would be interesting to know whether the robots designed to look like sea creatures are intrinsically superior to the clunky looking water bots.
Thanks, Rob, I've had the same basic question. The clunky ones have been aorund a lot longer--in fact, last week I saw James Cameron's movie The Abyss (1989) again, and noticed the ROV in it looks just like many in use today, 24 years later. So presumably, the clunky ones are still perfectly serviceable for what they do. OTOH, I suspect the designers of the biomimicry-inspired ROVs and AUVs, and their funders, are interested in finding out whether animal-inspired designs will be more energy-efficient, and/or more cost-effective.
Nice to know that the anti-submarine warfare vessel is designed to operate entirely without human presence. On the few occasions when I've had a chance to go on board submarines, I've always been amazed how cramped and tiny they are. (They look much bigger in the movies.) BFor a human to be confined to a sub for any length of time appears to be a very tough assignment.
What an interesting question, Ann. Perhaps in water, the size and shape of the robot is not as important as it would be on shore. That is, unless speed is a factor. In that case, a shape with the least resistance would likely be superior.
An autonomous robotic vehicle for exploring lakes on other planets has been developed by researchers in the University of Arizona's department of electrical and computer engineering. Something like a nautical version of a planetary rover, the lake lander, also called the Tucson Explorer II (TEX II), could be used to investigate the liquid hydrocarbon lakes on Titan, Saturn's largest moon. Although it will be a while before TEX II goes on a mission to Titan, it can be used on Earth to clean up littoral munitions dumps and mines, as well as harbor surveillance, environmental research, and search and rescue operations in oceans, lakes, and hazardous environments. Controllable via an Internet connection, TEX II has cameras and sonar operational up to 100 m. Its catamaran design provides stability, with two 6-ft long fortified Styrofoam hulls about 5 ft apart. The Styrofoam lets the lake lander withstand hull damage while maintaining buoyancy of its 100-lb weight and 150-lb payload.
Seems like it has to much windage which may not be a problem on other planets but it is "air" driven! They even mention cleaning up mines. I assume that to be old fashion ship exploders! These thing are all swaming mines ready to go get your billion dollar aircraft carrier. NK should forget the nukes and make these. Air dropped in front of the path of a navy fleet, oh my goodness. Boom! What the heck was that? Boom! Boom! Boom!
This is a very interesting and informative slideshow, thanks Ann. There are certainly a variety of them around, for all sorts of applications.
It the floats on the one intended to explore those hydrocarbon lakes on Titan are really sytrofoam, though, I predict failure, since most hydrocarbon liquids disolve styrofoam, some faster, some more slowly, but most, eventually.
Excellent slide-show Ann. I must admit, when I think of robotic systems I think manufacturing. It's an eye-opener to see other viable applications for these devices. The underwater environment can be extremely hostile and certainly a place for robots. I imagine design criteria being quite different for underwater as opposed to above water. Seals and water-tight enclosures look to be a must to protect against issues with electronics and data-gathering equipment. Again, great post.
Researchers have been working on a number of alternative chemistries to lithium-ion for next-gen batteries, silicon-air among them. However, while the technology has been viewed as promising and cost-effective, to date researchers haven’t managed to develop a battery of this chemistry with a viable running time -- until now.
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