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ROV NEWS: WHOI scientists to build hybrid ROV

Posted on 17.12.2003 - 10:01 EST in ROV NEWS by Rons_ROV_Links

Woods Hole, Massachusetts, USA ## For the first time since 1960, U.S. scientists will be able to explore the deepest parts of the world's oceans, up to 7 miles below the surface, with a novel underwater vehicle capable of performing multiple tasks in extreme conditions.

Researchers at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution here are developing a battery-powered underwater robot to enable scientists to explore the ocean's most remote regions up to 11,000 meters deep.

A spokeswoman said the hybrid HROV will be able to operate in two modes ## as an autonomous or free-swimming vehicle for wide area surveys, and as a tethered vehicle for close-up sampling and other tasks. In the latter mode, it will use a novel fiber-optic micro cable only one thirty-second of an inch thick, a significant departure from the large, heavy cables typically used with tethered vehicles. The deep-sea vehicle will require new technologies such as ceramic housings for cameras and other electronic equipment to withstand the pressures at the vehicle's extreme operating depths, she said.

Funding for the four-year, $5-million HROV project is provided by the U.S. National Science Foundation, with additional support from the U.S. Navy and the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration. Principal investigators are Andrew Bowen and Dana Yoerger of WHOI's Deep Submergence Laboratory in the Applied Ocean Physics & Engineering Department and Louis Whitcomb, an associate professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at The Johns Hopkins University (Baltimore, Maryland). Whitcomb is also a visiting investigator in DSL. The new vehicle will undergo initial trails in three years.

Humans have been to the bottom of the Mariana Trench only once, in 1960, when the U.S. Navy bathyscaph Trieste descended with then Lt. Don Walsh and Swiss scientist Jacques Piccard. The Japanese ROV Kaiko dove to the bottom of the trench in 1995. It was lost earlier this year (See Oceansp@ce No. 494, July 7.) and no operational vehicles currently exist that are capable of reaching this depth.

"The HROV will enable, for the first time, routine scientific research in the deepest parts of the ocean, from 6,500 meters to 11,000 meters, a depth we currently cannot reach," says RAdm. Richard Pittenger, USN, Ret., and WHOI vice president for marine operations. "It will also afford access to other very hard-to-reach regions such as under the arctic ice cap. The HROV's real-time, wide-band link to the surface will put the researcher in the loop to view, assess, and command the vehicle throughout the duration of dive missions. It is the first capable and cost-effective technology that will enable scientists to pursue research projects on a routine basis in areas they have long wanted to study but have been unable to reach. HROV technology will help answer many questions about the deep sea."

More at

OceanSp@ce No. 515, DECEMBER 15, 2003
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