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Nereid Under Ice (NUI)


The Deep Submergence Laboratory at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution along with colleagues at Johns Hopkins University and the University of New Hampshire, and supported primarily by a grant from the National Science Foundation, has developed a robotic underwater vehicle that provides the Polar Research Community with a capability to tele-operate, under direct real-time human supervision, a remotely-controlled inspection and survey vehicle, under ice, and unconstrained by the motions of a support vessel. The Nereid Under-Ice (NUI) vehicle enables exploration and detailed examination of biological and physical ice-margin and under-ice environments through the use of high-definition video in addition to a range of acoustic, chemical, and biological sensors tailored to suit the needs of an individual expedition. The goal of the NUI system is to provide scientific access to under-ice and ice-margin environments that is presently impractical or infeasible.

In July 2014, NUI successfully completed it's first under-ice field expedition from aboard the Alfred Wegener Institute's ice-breaker Polarstern.   In addition to conducting engineering trials, the vehicle was equipped with various biological sensors for studying near-ice primary productivity (a comprehensive pumped fluorometry system (SUNA nitrate, Eco Triplet FL/BB/CDOM, SBE25+ CTD, FRRF, PAR), hyperspectral radiance and irradiance sensors (RAMSES ACC, ARC), upward-looking still camera and and Imagenex DT100 multibeam, in addition to a Wetlabs Eco doublet Chl/NTU and SBE49 FastCAT CTD, and upward and downward looking RDI 300 kHz ADCP/DVLs.  Additional information about the expedition can be found here: http://www.marum.de/en/ARK-XXVIII3.html.  The full cruise report can be downloaded here: http://epic.awi.de/37141/1/BzPM_0685_2015.pdf.

We welcome input from the Polar Science Community on how best to serve your scientific objectives.

Contact: Michael Jakuba, mjakuba@whoi.edu

Project Team

Principal Investigators: Andrew D. Bowen1, Dana R. Yoerger1, Christopher German1, James C. Kinsey1, Louis L. Whitcomb1,2 Larry Mayer3

Engineering Team: Michael V. Jakuba1 (lead), Christopher L. Taylor1 (electrical systems lead), Daniel Gomez-Ibanez1 (power systems and telemetry lead),  Casey Machado(mechanical systems lead), Glenn MacDonald1 (LARS lead), Stefano Suman1 (software lead), Andrew Billings1 (thrusters lead), Keenan Ball1 (acoustic systems lead), Christopher McFarland2 (navigation), and many others.

1Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
2Laboratory for Computational Sensing and Dynamics, Johns Hopkins University
3Center for Coastal and Ocean Mapping, University of New Hampshire


  • Real-time exploration under direct human control far from influence of host ice breaker
  • HD video and real-time visualization of mapping and survey data products
  • Respond to features of interest by altering sensing modality and trajectory as desired
  • Vertical mobility – access to pressure-ridges, melt-pools, crevasses, general close inspection and mapping.
  • Land against underside of ice or on seafloor
  • Precision access to under-ice boundary layer
  • Access beneath glacial ice tongues and shelves
  • Future manipulation, sample retrieval, and instrument emplacement capability
Capabilities cross-comparison
Capabililties cross-comparison with other scientific systems targeted for the under-ice environment.  Nereid Under-Ice extends the range over which ROV-like inspection and real-time telepresence is possible relative to conventional ROV systems.  (*denotes systems under development as of 2013).


Specifications Range  40 km @ 1 m/sec plus 20 km reserve (preliminary).  Maximum speed in excess of 1.3 m/s.
Closed-loop control of heading, depth, ice-relative and geo-referenced position (within 150 m of ice and seafloor, respectively)
Air Weight 1800-2000 kg depening on configuration.
Depth Rating 2000 m
Battery 18 kWhr lithium-ion
Time On board precision atomic clock synchronized to GPS, 1 ppb drift rate/year.
Navigation Inertial IXSea Phins INS/north-seeking gyro-compass; back-up magnetic compasses (3)
Depth Paroscientific Nano-Resolution pressure sensor; SBE 49 FastCAT back-up
Acoustic up/down 300 kHz ADCP/DVLs; Blueview P900 imaging sonar for obstacle avoidance, One-way travel-time acoustic navigational aiding at 10 Hz, 3.5 kHz.
Communication Tether Fiber-optic communications-only Gb Ethernet, 20 km
Acoustic LF (3.5 kHz) 20-300 bps for ship to vehicle (20 km range); HF (10 kHz) 300 bs, ship-to-vehicle (1-5 km range), vehicle to sensor; vehicle to vehicle
Imaging Acoustic TBD.  Fieldwork in July 2014 will employ an Imagenex DT100.
Optical Real-time color HD-SDI video on internal pan/tilt/zoom (Kongsberg OE12-522); LED lighting (8 DSPL Sphere, dimmable), 3 channels SD, encoded on board.
Chemical/Physical Sensors (permanent)   Seabird FastCAT-49 pumped CTD
Biological Sensors (permanent)   WetLabs FLNTURTD Chl/backscatter fluorometer (0-30 ug/l, 0-10 NTU)
Auxiliary payload allowance (bow/spine):   Native support for 10 auxiliary sensors.  ~100 kg wet weight, 500 Whr Energy, 1000 W total (6 high-power channels with Gb Ethernet and/or RS-232, 100 W per channel, 6 low-power channels 3-15 W per channel, RS-232).  4 hardware trigger lines.  All channels logged on board and delivered in real-time topside.  Other communications protocols on request.
Auxiliary payload allowance: spine (upward-looking, protected)   240 mm x 450 mm x 500 mm (width, length, depth)
Auxiliary payload allowance: nose/chin (forward/down-looking, protected)   ~0.8 m3 total available volume, reconfigurable.

Publications (reverse chronological order)

  1. C. McFarland, M. Jakuba, S. Suman, J. Kinsey, and L. Whitcomb (2015). Toward Ice-Relative Navigation of Underwater Robotic Vehicles Under Moving Sea-Ice: Experimental Evaluation in the Arctic Sea.  In Proceedings IEEE ICRA 2015, Seattle WA.  To appear.

  2. Mar Fernández-Méndez, Samuel Laney, Christian Katlein, Louis L. Whitcomb, Stephen Elliot and Michael V. Jakuba, Antje Boetius, Christopher German.  Monitoring under ice phyto- and zooplankton blooms with the Nereid Under Ice remotely operated vehicle.  In Gordon Research Conference on Polar Marine Science (poster), Italy, March 2015.

  3. Christian Katlein, Stefanie Arndt, Mar Fernandez Mendez, Benjamin Lange, Marcel Nicolaus, Frank Wenzhofer, Mike Jakuba, and Chris German. Investigating changes in the climate-and ecosystem of Arctic sea ice using remotely operated vehicles. In ECC 2014, 2014. hdl:1003/epic.44171.

  4. C.R. German, A. Boetius, L. Whitcomb, M. Jakuba, J. Bailey, C. Judge , C. McFarland, S. Suman, S. Elliott, C. Katlein, S. Arndt, A. Bowen, D. Yoerger, J. Kinsey, L. Mayer, M. Nicolaus, S. Laney, H. Singh, T. Maksym & the PS 86 Scientific Research Team (2014).  First scientific dives of the Nereid Under Ice hybrid ROV in the Arctic Ocean.  EOS Trans AGU (abstr).

  5. L.L. Whitcomb, M.V. Jakuba, C.R. German, A.D. Bowen, D.R. Yoerger, J.C. Kinsey, L. Mayer, C. McFarland, S. Suman, J. Bailey, C. Judge, S. Elliott, D. Gomez-Ibanez, C.L. Taylor, C. Machado, J.C. Howland, C. Kaiser, M. Heintz, C. Pontbriand, L. O’Hara, G. McDonald, A. Boetius (2014).  Preliminary Polar Sea Trials of Nereid-UI: A Remotely Operated Underwater Vehicle for Oceanographic Access Under Ice.  EOS Trans AGU (abstr).

  6. A. D. Bowen, D. R. Yoerger, C. C. Germand, J. C. Kinsey, M. V. Jakuba, D. Gomez-Ibanez, C. L. Taylor, C. Machado, J. C. Howland, C. L. Kaiser, M. Heintz, C. Pontbriand, S. Suman, L. O’hara, L. L. Whitcomb, C.J. McFarland, and L. Mayer. Design and preliminary engineering trials of Nereid-UI: A remotely operated underwater vehicle for oceanographic access under ice. In Proceedings IEEE/MTS Oceans Conference and Exhibition, St. Johns, Canada, Sept. 2014. 

  7. A. Bowen, M. Jakuba, D. Yoerger, L. L. Whitcomb, J. C. Kinsey, L. Mayer, and C. R. German. Nereid UI: A light-tethered remotely operated vehicle for under-ice telepresence. In Proceedings Arctic Technology Conference, Houston Tx, Dec. 2012.  (Reprint available on request.)

  8. A. Bowen, M. Jakuba, D. Yoerger, C. German, J. Kinsey, L. Whitcomb, and L. Mayer. Lightly tethered unmanned underwater vehicle for under-ice exploration. In IEEE Aerospace Conference, page 12 pp., Big Sky, MT, Mar. 2012.

  9. M. Jakuba, L. Whitcomb, D. Yoerger, and A. Bowen. Toward under-ice operations with hybrid underwater robotic vehicles. In Proceedings IEEE/OES Conference on Polar AUVs (AUV2008), Woods Hole, MA, USA, Oct. 2008.


Vehicle development was funded under NSF’s Office of Polar Programs ANT-1126311. Additional funding is provided by the James Family Foundation, the George Frederick Jewett Foundation East and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.

Participation in July 2014 for cruise ARK28-3 (RV Polarsterm) is funded through NOAA's Office of Exploration and Research, with additional support provided by NSF's Division of Ocean Sciences, NSF's Office of Polar Programs, and the Office of Naval Research.  We respectfully acknowledge the contribution of shiptime aboard the RV Polarstern from the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar Research, Bremerhaven, Germany.

Originally published: March 21, 2014