New Solar Underwater Robot Technology

Sep 07, 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: Toughest leg of Solar Impulse's global journey delayed

Related Stories

For pollock surveys in Alaska, things are looking up

4 hours ago

Shelikof Strait, in the Gulf of Alaska, is an important spawning area for walleye pollock, the target of the largest—and one of the most valuable—fisheries in the nation. This year, a team of NOAA Fisheries ...

Oceanographer publishes atlas of seafloor volcanoes and deep-ocean life

May 20, 2015

A University of Washington oceanographer has helped create the first full-color photographic atlas of the ocean floor. "Discovering the Deep: A Photographic Atlas of the Seafloor and Ocean Crust" (Cambridge University Press, 2015) was almost a decade in the making and contains more than 500 original illustrations and col ...

Soft robot to swim through Europa's oceans

May 13, 2015

An amphibious robot that can swim through the oceans of distant moons and planets could be the next iteration of self-sustaining, robotic space exploration.

Generating eco-friendly power with metal rotor blades

May 07, 2015

Wind turbines deliver environmentally friendly electricity. Yet the fiber-reinforced plastics often used in very large rotor blades are almost impossible to recycle. Not so with steel blades: since these ...

Scientists go high-tech to study fragile cold-water reefs

May 06, 2015

Coral reefs are generally associated with warm, shallow and crystal-clear waters in the tropics. Other species of coral, however, flourish in the deep cold ocean where they also form large reefs. Now researchers ...

Recommended for you

Preventing hydropower turbine failure

5 minutes ago

The Francis turbine is the most common type of water turbine used in Norwegian hydropower plants, and has been for many years. About half of the world's Francis turbines are found in Norwegian plants.

User comments : 0

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.