Underwater Vehicles


Rapid Response at Sea

As sea ice continues to melt in the Arctic and oil exploration expands in the region, the possibility of an oil spill occurring under ice is higher than ever. To help first responders cope with oil trapped under ice, ocean engineers are developing undersea vehicles that can map oil spills to improve situational awareness and decision making during an emergency.

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Local fishermen assist leatherback research

Wicked Local

After several years, Kara Dodge began to do other work with turtles, in particular a “TurtleCam” project with Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution engineer Amy Kukulya. The project involved tagging and tailing turtles with autonomous underwater vehicles to study diving behavior, eating habits, and assess ways to reduce entanglements.

What’s it like in a submersible?

It is hard to describe what it’s like to physically travel down to the twilight zone. Both Heidi Sosik, senior scientist at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and Ocean Twilight Zone (OTZ) project lead and Joel Llopiz, Associate Scientist, and OTZ lead of the life histories and behavior theme went down in a submersible for the first time to experience the twilight zone. They were able to able to observe beautiful jellies and small fishes like bristlemouths, hatchetfish, and lanternfish, all in their natural habitat.

This was part of a mission in spring of 2019 where several members of the OTZ Project team conducted an expedition aboard OceanX’s research vessel, the M/V Alucia, out of the Bahamas. The main goal of the expedition was to examine how the OTZ project site off the coast of New England differs from this distant –yet connected– region of the twilight zone. The team worked closely with OceanX to share their journey through video diaries and photographs of the extraordinary creatures brought on board throughout the cruise. The Ocean Twilight Zone is supported the Audacious Project, a collaborative endeavor, housed at TED, to surface and fund ideas with the potential to create change at thrilling scale.

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What is the story behind Mesobot?

Mesobot is designed to let scientists observe the twilight zone by autonomously tracking individual animals for hours or even days without disturbing the environment or disrupting their behavior, making it possible to follow individual animals as they take part in the great migration from the twilight zone to the surface and back each day. Mesobot is also equipped with samplers that will allow it to capture traces of environmental DNA (eDNA) from seawater while on a dive. The engineering team held their first successful at-sea test in June of 2019.

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Underwater robots swarm the ocean

Robot Swarm

Researchers test a new, acoustic-based navigation system to solve a problem that oceanographers have grappled with for years—getting multiple underwater robots to monitor the ocean cooperatively in swarm-like fashion.

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Mesobot: Following life in the Twilight Zone

Mesobot is a brand new underwater vehicle designed to reveal what lives in the ocean’s twilight zone. Mesobot can follow animals as they move through the darkness and as they migrate from the depths to the surface and back. The twilight zone is vast and remote, but is threatened by unregulated fishing and climate change. We need Mesobot’s insights to understand and protect the twilight zone before humans change it forever.

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A new way of “seeing” offshore wind power cables

Eager to share best practices and technical know-how with the offshore wind sector, WHOI researchers test out an autonomous underwater vehicle (AUVs)—a staple of oceanographic research—to see if it can perform subsea cable surveys faster and more economically than using large and expensive ships.

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SharkCam

SharkCam

SharkCam, a customized REMUS robot, follows and films a great white shark by tracking acoustic signals sent from a tag…

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Sitting atop a legend

HOV Alvin pilot Valentine Wilson sits atop the research submarine in 1966, shown here in its first incarnation. After Wilson…

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Imagining new vehicles for exploration

Andy Bowen

Andy Bowen is the kind of guy who wakes up in the middle of the night unable to go back to sleep, because he’s just too excited about a solution he’s just imagined for a new robotic invention.

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Splash in the Dark

HOV Alvin

The human-occupied submersible Alvin isn’t often recovered after dark—usually it’s on deck in time for dinner, even though the sub…

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WHOI to be Featured in Upcoming BBC Program ‘Blue Planet Live’

WHOI to be Featured in Upcoming BBC Program 'Blue Planet Live'

Scientists, engineers, vehicle operators, and ship crew from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) will be a featured part of the upcoming BBC program, Blue Planet Live, which will air over four nights beginning March 24. The series will include two live broadcasts from the research vessel Atlantis showing launch and recovery of the human-occupied submersible Alvin.

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Mesobot, Follow that Jellyfish!

Mesobot, Follow that Jellyfish!

WHO scientists and engineers are developing an innovative autonomous deep-sea vehicle with hovering and manuevering capabilities that will allow it to follow animals without disturbing their environment and behavior.

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Underwater Vehicles

In order to understand the ocean, scientists often find they have to get themselves or their instruments into very specific…

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Coding Curiosity

Coding Curiosity

The ocean is an extreme environment that is hard for humans to explore. One solution is building deep-sea robots that can autonomously make decisions on what to look for and where.

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Alvin Submersible Makes 5,000th Dive

Alvin Submersible Makes 5,000th Dive

Alvin, the country’s only deep-diving research submersible capable of carrying humans to the sea floor, reached another milestone in its long career on Nov. 26, 2018, when the sub made its 5,000th dive during an expedition to the Guaymas Basin in the Gulf of California.

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Sentry Completes Its 500th Dive

Sentry Completes Its 500th Dive

WHOI’s free-swimming robot Sentry completed its 500th dive on October 16, 2018, off the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica. The autonomous underwater vehicle has used its sonar systems to help scientists map the seafloor, track the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, locate the voyage data recorder on the sunken El Faro cargo ship, and carry out advanced research on many other missions to help us better understand our ocean and our planet.

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