ARLINGTON, V.A. – A new solar-powered underwater robottechnology developed for undersea observation and water monitoring willbe showcased at a Sept. 16 workshop on leading-edge robotics to be heldat the National Science Foundation (NSF) in Arlington, Va.
ArthurC. Sanderson, professor of electrical, computer, and systemsengineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, will display therobotic technology being developed by a team of research groups,including Rensselaer, and led by the Autonomous Undersea SystemsInstitute directed by D. Richard Blidberg.
Sanderson also willparticipate on a panel of six robotics experts who recently completed astudy to be released at the Sept. 16 workshop. The World TechnologyEvaluation Center International Study of Robotics is a two-year look atrobotics research and development in the United States, Japan, Korea,and Western Europe.
As the principal investigator of anNSF-funded project called RiverNet, Sanderson is workingcollaboratively with other researchers to develop a network ofdistributed sensing devices and water-monitoring robots, including thefirst solar-powered autonomous underwater vehicles (SAUVs).
“Oncefully realized, this underwater robot technology will allow betterobservation and monitoring of complex aquatic systems, and will supportadvances in basic environmental science as well as applications toenvironmental management and security and defense programs,” saidSanderson.
The SAUV technology allows underwater robots to bedeployed long-term by using solar power to replenish onboard energy.Long-term deployment of SAUVs will allow detection of chemical andbiological trends in lakes, rivers, and waterways that may guide themanagement and improvement of water quality. Autonomous underwatervehicles equipped with sensors are currently used for water monitoring,but must be taken out of the water frequently to recharge the batteries.
Accordingto Sanderson, the SAUVs communicate and network with one another inreal time to assess a water body as a whole in measuring how it changesover space and time. Key technologies used in SAUVs include integratedsensor microsystems, pervasive computing, wireless communications, andsensor mobility with robotics. Sanderson notes that the underwatervehicles have captured the attention of the U.S. Navy, which willevaluate their use for coastal surveillance applications.
The SAUV weighs 370 pounds, travels at speeds of up to 2 miles per hour, and is designed to dive to depths of 500 meters.
Sandersonand his colleagues will continue field testing the vehicles in comingmonths at locations including Rensselaer’s Darrin Fresh Water Instituteon Lake George, N.Y., to determine communication, interaction, andmaneuvering capabilities in testing dissolved oxygen levels, one of themost important indicators of water quality for aquatic life.
Sandersonis collaborating on SAUV development with the Autonomous UnderseaSystems Institute, Falmouth Scientific Inc., the Naval Undersea WarfareCenter, and Technology Systems Inc.
The Sept. 16 workshop issponsored by NSF, NASA, and the National Institutes of Health (NIH).The international robotics study was organized by the World TechnologyEvaluation Center, a United States-based organization conductinginternational research assessments.
“This gathering ofresearchers and their robots shows the necessity of federal support forbasic research that leads to new technologies with useful applicationsin health care, the environment, and industry,” said Sanderson.
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