Archives for September 9, 2009

Robot Crawls the Seafloor to Explore Life

From New Scientist comes this story about a deep sea rover, called Benthic Rover, that is exploring the ocean’s depths.  Hard to believe that we know less about the ocean floor than is known about the surface of Mars.  This automobile-sized robot, developed by the Monterrey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI), is attempting to change that by traveling across the abyssal seafloor. In order to achieve this feat, engineers had to overcome several challenges.  Obviously, the biggest barrier to this type of exploration is the extreme pressure at depth.  To protect the sensitive electronics systems, custom titanium spheres were built to contain them.  In order to keep from sinking in the muddy seafloor, special flotation devices allow the rover to crawl across the marine sediment.  To prevent the tank-like threads on the robot from stirring up clouds of fine particles, a pair of off-the-shelf broom heads keep the threads clean. 

You can read all about this robot at the link below and at the New Scientist and at the MBARI website.

Benthic rover during test dive

Image: © 2007 MBARI

The Benthic Rover makes its way across the deep seafloor during a trial run in 2007. The "brains" of the vehicle are protected by a spherical titanium pressure housing. The orange and yellow objects are made of incompressible foam, whose buoyancy makes the Rover light enough underwater so that it won't sink into the soft deep-sea mud. 

Source: Monterrey Bay Aquarium Research Institute

Like the robotic rovers Spirit and Opportunity, which wheeled tirelessly across the dusty surface of Mars, a new robot spent most of July traveling across the muddy ocean bottom, about 40 kilometers (25 miles) off the California coast. This robot, the Benthic Rover, has been providing scientists with an entirely new view of life on the deep seafloor. It will also give scientists a way to document the effects of climate change on the deep sea.

New Robot Travels Across The Seafloor To Monitor The Impact Of Climate Change On Deep-sea Ecosystems
Thu, 10 Sep 2009 18:00:00 GMT