BALTIMORE, Md., Dec. 11 -- The robotic "brain" that will steer a new remotely operated vehicle through the deepest parts of the world's oceans will employ technology devised by engineers at The Johns Hopkins University (JHU).
The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) recently received $5 million in funding to design and construct a self-powered undersea robot capable of descending 11,000 meters or 36,000 feet, deeper than any existing research vehicle. The new robot is described as a hybrid because it will be able to operate either connected to a fiber optic umbilical or in a free-swimming mode. The navigation and control systems will employ technology developed by Louis Whitcomb, an associate mechanical engineering professor at Johns Hopkins and an adjunct scientist in the Deep Submergence Laboratory at Woods Hole.
Navigation and control systems developed for the JHU ROV, an underwater robot based at Johns Hopkins, have been adapted for use in Jason 2 and DSL120A, two robotic research vehicles developed at Woods Hole. Whitcomb's navigation system also is being used by Alvin, an inhabited undersea vehicle, also developed by WHOI. The navigation system enables an undersea vehicle to determine its exact position on Earth; the control system allows it to maneuver in a highly precise manner.
For the new hybrid vehicle, Whitcomb, his collaborators at WHOI and his students at Johns Hopkins' Baltimore campus will expand and enhance their existing systems. The team will produce computer hardware and software that will be installed on the hybrid vehicle itself.
"The new hybrid vehicle project will allow us to build on our existing knowledge and contribute to an innovative type of underwater robot that will, we hope, significantly extend the reach of oceanographic research at extreme depths," Whitcomb said.
The four-year project is led by WHOI's Andrew Bowen, with Dana Yoerger, and Whitcomb as co-investigators. The project is funded by the National Science Foundation, the US Navy and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
For more information, visit: robotics.jhu.edu