Technological advancements have really done the world a huge favor. With all the cool and simple gadgets to the sophisticated robots, we surely couldn’t ask for more! After the launch of Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV), people are getting ready for Unmanned Underwater Vehicles or UUVs. These underwater robots can be really beneficial for various scientific purposes.
Underwater robots can perform different actions in the ocean. They can even provide ultrasonic imaging and take some pictures of underwater lives with a digital camera. It can also be used for military purposes, like detecting and disabling underwater mines.
Underwater robots are something cool that isn’t as popular as UAVs. That’s the reason why we’re trying to promote them by displaying some of the most astonishing underwater robot facts that you probably didn’t know yet.
1. There are Some Classifications for Underwater Robots
Understanding UUVs isn’t as simple as one might have thought. In fact, you should know the difference between Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROVs) and Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUVs) to get a better understanding about underwater robots. Let’s have a better understanding of the meaning and purposes of each classification:
- Remotely Operated Vehicles: ROVs are underwater robots used for educational and industrial reasons. They are controlled by an operator at a nearby ship. Sometimes, they are even connected with a cable.
- Autonomous Underwater Vehicles: While AUVs generally have the same purposes, they aren’t controlled by an operator. Instead, they’ve been programmed to do specific tasks. Once they finish it, they will return to the base.
2. The First Underwater Robot to Cross the Ocean Basin
Development of Unmanned Underwater Vehicles can be dated as far back as the 1950s. Back then, AUVs were developed for explorations in the sea. Through the years, there are a lot of different underwater robots that have been manufactured. However, Scarlet Knight was the first underwater robot to cross an ocean basin.
The fascinating robot, dubbed RU27, was able to dive to depths of 200 meters and collect useful data for scientific studies. The emergence of this robot is pretty beneficial, as it is able to swim across the ocean basin and other parts that humans cannot pass through. Currently, the legendary glider is displayed at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C.
3. How Low can an Underwater Robot Go?
There’s always a limit to what something can do. In terms of depth, normal underwater robots like SuBastian can dive to 4,500 meters. The ability to dive into deep waters also depends on the depth and currents of the ocean.
However, a new and small self-powered underwater robot appears to score a new record with its ability. It is said that this awesome UUV was able to reach the deepest part of the Pacific Ocean at a depth of 11 kilometers or 6.8 miles. Sounds crazy, right?!
4. There are Many Challenges in Using Underwater Robots
As sophisticated and highly-advanced underwater robot fishes can be, they still have limitations and challenges. Underwater robots can only reach a certain amount of depth in the ocean because of some factors like environmental dynamics.
For ROVs, operators will have difficulties in controlling the robots due to visibility issues. Even Autonomous Underwater Vehicles also have their challenges. The deeper a robot goes, the harder for them to receive signals due to disruptions.
Even though current underwater robots have limitations, they’re still able to perform well and be beneficial for various scientific fields. Let’s just appreciate the technology that we have now as well as hope for a better development in the future.
5. Work as a Whole Swarm and Coordinate via Centralized Computer
Underwater robots are programmed to do various tasks in the ocean. However, some of the jobs are better done by smaller underwater robots that work together as a unit. These robots can work in sync to give a better picture of life down below.
Ocean scientist Erin Fischell said that having smaller robots that can work in sync will not be as expensive as having one large underwater robot to cover the same area of the ocean.
Although there are thousands of underwater robots that are deployed at once, they can still work as a unit because they are coordinated from a centralized computer. GPS coordinates will guide them for directions too. However, researchers have also implemented two-wide angle cameras with a complex algorithm that allows them to behave like a real fish autonomously.
6. There are Underwater Robots that Look Like Fish
To mimic the underwater world better, scientists have developed underwater robots that look just like normal fish. They’re known as “Bluebots”, and they are able to detect nearby robots with their camera eyes.
Plus, these robots can also move like a normal fish does by swimming using flapping fins instead of propellers. Scientists hope that it will be beneficial in the long run for marine world exploration as well as saving lives.
There are other developments regarding underwater robots that look like fish. SoFi (Short for Soft Robotic Fish) is another cool example of that. However, SoFi is also capable of working alone instead of gathering with a swarm of robots.
Previously, SoFi was able to navigate around the Pacific Ocean at depths ranging from 0 to 18 meters. Developers hope that fish-like underwater robots can also be used to study the interactions of aquatic life as well as ocean dynamics.
7. It (Nearly) Caused an International Incident Back in 2016
Placing a technology in a foreign country can be risky, especially if it belongs to a nation’s military force. Back in 2016, China seized a US underwater drone deployed in international waters. The UUV was found around 100 miles northwest of the Philippines’s port of Subic Bay. At first, the request from the US to return the item immediately was denied by the Chinese navy.
Although the underwater robot was merely used for scientific purposes, the timing of the incident couldn’t come at a worst time. Back then, the United States and China were at each other’s throat. Thankfully, they were able to resolve the matter without the need to further escalate the situation.
8. Underwater Robot Competitions
Underwater robots can also be used for commercial purposes. In fact, there are a lot of awesome underwater robotic competitions that you can take part in. One of those cool competitions is held by SeaPerch.
Here, teachers and students will be equipped with several items in order to build the best underwater robot. Then, they can even challenge other people’s underwater robots and race them to see who came out on top!
9. Still Can Save Human Lives, Even if Their Machines Failed
Underwater robots can offer other things besides becoming mere equipment for scientific purposes. In fact, it is said that it could save humans who are drowning due to accidents. But with the limitations that underwater robots have, it’s only natural if you raised an eyebrow towards this function.
Actually, you don’t need to worry about that, because underwater robots have an emergency mechanism that allows them to complete the mission. When all systems fail, they will activate their buoyant function and float to the surface as quickly as possible and radio for help.
10. The Fastest Underwater Robot
Sometimes, speed is something that we rarely think about when discussing underwater robots. After all, they’re not used for transporting humans or other things!
But for some of you who wondered about this question, we’ve got you covered! One of the fastest underwater robots available is the Bluefin-21. It is a highly modular AUV that is able to travel with the speed of up to 4.5 knots. However, the magnificent Bluefin-21 is not the fastest underwater robot!
The title should be given to an underwater robot developed by scientists in Singapore. The ultra-fast robot is able to travel through water ten times its body length in just one second! It drew inspiration from octopus. When it senses danger, it will inflate its mantle cavity to a bluff-body shape to flee from danger.
11. The US Military is Finally to Replace Old Underwater Robots
It’s about damn time that the US Navy decided to upgrade their UUVs. Currently, the US Navy owns the Mk 18 Mod 1 Swordfish and Mk 18 Mod 2 Kingfish.
Both can be dated back to the late 1990s and 2000s. Hence, it makes sense if they decided to replace those old robots with newer ones. Currently, signs of progress are good enough for the Lionfish small UUV and the Viperfish medium UUV.
The Lionfish will replace Mk 18 Mod 1. The Mk 18 Mod 2 Kingfish will merge with the legacy program Razorback to form the awesome Viperfish program.
12. The Main Purpose of Underwater Robots for the Military
We all know that UUVs can carry out missions and tasks that humans can’t do. It involves getting into small parts of the ocean that can’t be trespassed by humans.
Although UUVs are mostly used for scientific reasons, military forces all around the world have started to use them too. Just like drones and UAVs, these underwater robots can be used to gather intelligence from other nations. It can also be used to detect and disable underwater mines!