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December 18, 2014

New robot developed for Arctic research

US-based Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) has developed a new innovative robot to carry out scientific research in the Arctic environment.

By Samseer M

Nereid Under Ice

US-based Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) has developed a new innovative robot to carry out scientific research in the Arctic environment.

Known as Nereid Under Ice (NUI), the new system can be operated by pilots on a surface ship through a lightweight, micro-thin and fibre-optic tether, which relays environmental data in real-time.

It is capable of providing high-definition imagery and maps, and collects data beneath undisturbed sea-ice, away from the disruptive impact of an ice-breaking research ship.

The $3m robot has been developed with financial support from the National Science Foundation and WHOI.

In July this year, the system was successfully tested on a scientific expedition aboard the Alfred Wegener Institute’s ice-breaker Polarstern.

WHOI National Deep Submergence Facility director and lead principal investigator for the project Andy Bowen said: "The fibre-optic tether permits [the] NUI to travel farther from the ship than a conventional tether would allow.

"The $3m robot has been developed with financial support from the National Science Foundation and WHOI."

"The tether enables the vehicle to reach heavier ice cover away from the ship, or to move closer to the calving front of a glacier, while still remaining under direct human control."

The vehicle is equipped with a ‘come home’ control system, which can be used if the tether breaks or becomes entangled. In such situations, the system will be operated as a free-swimming, autonomous vehicle.

As part of the Polarstern expedition, the robot made four dives to a maximum depth of 45m and the distance of the dives reached up to 800m away from the ship.

It also completed 3.7km of track-line surveys under moving sea ice.


Image: The new robot will offer scientists a new way to interact with and observe the polar environment. Photo: courtesy of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.

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