New Solar Underwater Robot Technology

September 7, 2005
New Solar Underwater Robot Technology

A new solar-powered underwater robot technology developed for undersea observation and water monitoring will be showcased at a Sept. 16 workshop on leading-edge robotics to be held at the National Science Foundation (NSF) in Arlington, Va.

Image: Solar-powered Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (SAUV). Photo: RPI/Sanderson in collaboration with Autonomous Undersea Systems Institute, Falmouth Scientific Inc., and Naval Undersea Warfare Center.

Arthur C. Sanderson, professor of electrical, computer, and systems engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, will display the robotic technology being developed by a team of research groups, including Rensselaer, and led by the Autonomous Undersea Systems Institute directed by D. Richard Blidberg.

Sanderson also will participate on a panel of six robotics experts who recently completed a study to be released at the Sept. 16 workshop. The World Technology Evaluation Center International Study of Robotics is a two-year look at robotics research and development in the United States, Japan, Korea, and Western Europe.

As the principal investigator of an NSF-funded project called RiverNet, Sanderson is working collaboratively with other researchers to develop a network of distributed sensing devices and water-monitoring robots, including the first solar-powered autonomous underwater vehicles (SAUVs).

“Once fully realized, this underwater robot technology will allow better observation and monitoring of complex aquatic systems, and will support advances in basic environmental science as well as applications to environmental management and security and defense programs,” said Sanderson.

The SAUV technology allows underwater robots to be deployed long-term by using solar power to replenish onboard energy. Long-term deployment of SAUVs will allow detection of chemical and biological trends in lakes, rivers, and waterways that may guide the management and improvement of water quality. Autonomous underwater vehicles equipped with sensors are currently used for water monitoring, but must be taken out of the water frequently to recharge the batteries.

According to Sanderson, the SAUVs communicate and network with one another in real time to assess a water body as a whole in measuring how it changes over space and time. Key technologies used in SAUVs include integrated sensor microsystems, pervasive computing, wireless communications, and sensor mobility with robotics. Sanderson notes that the underwater vehicles have captured the attention of the U.S. Navy, which will evaluate their use for coastal surveillance applications.

The SAUV weighs 370 pounds, travels at speeds of up to 2 miles per hour, and is designed to dive to depths of 500 meters.

Sanderson and his colleagues will continue field testing the vehicles in coming months at locations including Rensselaer’s Darrin Fresh Water Institute on Lake George, N.Y., to determine communication, interaction, and maneuvering capabilities in testing dissolved oxygen levels, one of the most important indicators of water quality for aquatic life.

Sanderson is collaborating on SAUV development with the Autonomous Undersea Systems Institute, Falmouth Scientific Inc., the Naval Undersea Warfare Center, and Technology Systems Inc.

The Sept. 16 workshop is sponsored by NSF, NASA, and the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The international robotics study was organized by the World Technology Evaluation Center, a United States-based organization conducting international research assessments.

“This gathering of researchers and their robots shows the necessity of federal support for basic research that leads to new technologies with useful applications in health care, the environment, and industry,” said Sanderson.

Source: Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

Explore further: Five lessons from Hurricane Katrina emergency robot deployments

Related Stories

Tomorrow's farmers may take more fruitful dives for crops

July 11, 2015

We raise crops on land. Could we do the same underwater? Use the oceans to provide alternative sources of plant production where land is not as kind? Why not? asked Fast Company. "The temperature doesn't fluctuate, so there's ...

Scientists find electrifying solution to sticky problem

August 25, 2015

Inspired by the limitations of biomimetic glues in wet environments, scientists from Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NTU Singapore) have invented a glue that will harden when a voltage is applied to it. This ...

New AUV plankton sampling system deployed

August 17, 2015

A group of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) researchers and engineers have developed and tested an innovative new system for sampling small planktonic larvae in coastal ocean waters and understanding their distribution.

Recommended for you

Professor solves 140-year fluid mechanics enigma

October 7, 2015

A Purdue University researcher has solved a 140-year-old enigma in fluid mechanics: Why does a simple formula describe the seemingly complex physics for the behavior of elliptical particles moving through fluid?

Perfectly accurate clocks turn out to be impossible

October 7, 2015

Can the passage of time be measured precisely, always and everywhere? The answer will upset many watchmakers. A team of physicists from the universities of Warsaw and Nottingham have just shown that when we are dealing with ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.