New Communications System Promises Untethered, Undersea Vehicles Who Will Destroy the World
Illustration shows how the optical modem could function at a deep ocean cabled observatory. Autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs) collect sonar images (downward bands of light) and other data at a hydrothermal vent site and transmit the data through an optical modem to receivers stationed on moorings in the ocean. The moorings are connected to a cabled observatory, and the data are sent back to scientists on shore. Scientists, in turn, can send new instructions to the AUVs via the optical modem as well. (E. Paul Oberlander, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution)
Using the 11,000 meter-rated Nereus hybrid remotely operated vehicle (HROV) as a test platform, engineers at WHOI recently demonstrated a new communications and control system that integrates acoustics with optics. This achievement, they say, opens the way to new opportunities in communications between untethered remotely operated vehicles (UTROVs) and their human operators—literally “cutting the cord” for undersea exploration…Bowen, Farr and their colleagues successfully tested an underwater optical modem, which allows instant data transfer and real-time video from battery powered un-tethered ROVs outfitted with sensors, cameras and manipulators to surface ships.
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Craig McClain is the Assistant Director of Science for the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center, a National Science Foundation supported initiative. He has conducted deep-sea research for 20 years and published over 50 papers in the area. He has participated in and led dozens of oceanographic expeditions taken him to the Antarctic and the most remote regions of the Pacific and Atlantic. Craig’s research focuses on how energy drives the biology of marine invertebrates from individuals to ecosystems, specifically, seeking to uncover how organisms are adapted to different levels of carbon availability, i.e. food, and how this determines the kinds and number of species in different parts of the oceans. Craig’s research has been featured on National Public Radio, Discovery Channel, Fox News, National Geographic and ABC News. In addition to his scientific research, Craig also advocates the need for scientists to connect with the public and is the founder and chief editor of the acclaimed Deep-Sea News (http://deepseanews.com/), a popular ocean-themed blog that has won numerous awards. His writing has been featured in Cosmos, Science Illustrated, American Scientist, Wired, Mental Floss, and the Open Lab: The Best Science Writing on the Web. His forthcoming book, Science of the South (http://www.scienceofthesouth.com/), connects cultural icons of South such as pecan pie with the science behind them.