Robot Explorers Lose One of Their Own
In our November–December 2013 issue, authors Oscar Schofield, Scott Glenn, and Mark Moline wrote about their research with autonomous underwater vehicles and how they are expanding our knowledge of the ocean.
In May 2014, a UAV called Nereus experienced a catastrophic failure. Drs. Schofield, Glenn and Moline wrote this tribute at the time of the loss:
The Nereus, one of the few systems capable of deep ocean exploration, likely suffered an implosion during its mission. The Nereus was exploring the deep Kermadec Trench and was working under extremely high pressures, highlighting the difficult operating conditions of the ocean. The technical challenges of working in these regions are numerous and will continue to be a focus of leading technologists around the world. It should be highlighted that there was no loss of human life, exemplifying the important role these robotic technologies play in safe ocean exploration. So despite a setback, we remain undaunted and argue for the accelerated development of new platforms that will help us understand the status and trajectory of this ocean planet. Finally, as field-going oceanographers, we often become emotionally attached to our tools; given this, we tip our caps and toast Nereus’s heroic death at sea.
Woods Hole has an interactive animation of Nereus here.
(For more about underwater exploration vehicles, check out this multimedia blog about the recent relaunch of the submersible Alvin.)
Photo credit: Image courtesy of Advanced Imaging and Visualization Laboratory, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.
This post is published in The Long View
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