Autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs) have been around for years. Operated by remote control, an individual sitting safely in an office on dry land can navigate an AUV through the myriad of obstacles that the ocean floor boasts.
But, never have these vessels been able to operate themselves without a human being remotely controlling at least some of their movements, though that may soon change. According to a recent article at NewScientist, researchers at the Aerospace Robotics Laboratory at Stanford University and the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute in Moss Landing, California are close to developing a new guidance system – one that would allow submersibles to navigate the twisting maze of underwater structures independently.
"The software tweak will allow underwater robots to autonomously take pictures of hazardous locations where only remote-controlled robots have gone before," wrote Will Ferguson, the article's author. "The team ran a successful field test in Monterey Bay earlier this month and expects the system will be ready to be tried for real sometime next year."
Meanwhile, Ferguson also noted that scientists in Australia are developing a system that will allow AUVs to detect and differentiate between various species of plant and animal life found in the sea.
The ocean is perhaps our planet's last "undiscovered country," with so many undocumented species residing at depths humans have never explored. By combining different technologies and state-of-the-art sensors, along with innovative methods of joining dissimilar metals, researchers are developing AUVs that will venture into these places and gather data never before seen by humans.
These vessels will perhaps be the key to unlocking what remains of the ocean's mysteries.